Late this afternoon, Jeff Bezos published a letter on Medium that is, frankly, one of the most stunning things I’ve ever read. It is also extremely important, far beyond the celebrity gossip of a billionaire caught in an affair or compromising photographs.
Put simply, we’ve known for a couple years now that in addition to being the tabloid we’ve known for decades, The National Enquirer also weaponizes embarrassing information on behalf of Donald Trump and presumably others. They’ve already been obliged to enter into a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in New York over their role in the hush money payments on behalf of Donald Trump in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign. When the Enquirer published the story of Jeff Bezos’s affair several weeks ago it was an obvious question whether this was some sort of hit on behalf of Donald Trump since Trump has made Bezos one of his top public enemies. It’s also been reported that Bezos hired private investigators to figure out how the whole thing happened.
Today Bezos published correspondence which appears to clearly show AMI (the Enquirer’s parent company) trying to blackmail him. Put simply, the Enquirer lays out in some detail that it has various dick pics of Bezos and semi-nude photographs of his girlfriend. If Bezos doesn’t stop his investigation and publicly announce that his investigators found that the Enquirer did nothing wrong, they’ll publish the photos. Ex-prosecutors who I think know what they’re talking about are saying this probably isn’t blackmail by a criminal standard. So let’s assume that’s true.
(Here’s Bezos’s post. There’s no describing it. You need to read it yourself.)
What it does show is that AMI is precisely the criminal enterprise, weaponizing pseudo-journalism and cash payoffs on behalf of wealthy associates, as we’ve come to suspect. Bezos’ also hints pretty clearly that there may be evidence that the Saudis are somehow behind what happened. Remember, Trump hates Bezos because he owns The Washington Post. Whether he believes that Bezos actually calls the shots in the Post’s reporting I have no idea. But that’s the source of Trump’s ire. Jamal Khashoggi also had a column with the Post. The Post has taken the lead in pushing for justice on Khashoggi’s behalf. So the Saudis have a big beef too. And of course Trump appears to have his own corrupt ties to the de facto rulers of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Now, in theory, maybe AMI just wants Bezos to back off. No one likes being scrutinized by private investigators even if you’re just sleazy and not criminal. But the hyper-aggressive nature of AMI’s actions here tells me there’s something much bigger in play here.
I give Bezos credit. This is a very bold move at the cost of substantial personal embarrassment. But the malign role of AMI in American public life has an importance that goes far beyond that. This looks to me like a very, very big deal.