In addition to the all the bombshellish parts of that Jeff Bezos posts I discussed below, there are a few breadcrumbs strewn through the text that may reveal more than it seems on a quick read. Let’s go over them.
“I engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained, and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer. As it turns out, there are now several independent investigations looking into this matter.”
We can’t be certain. But this strongly suggests that there are already criminal investigations underway into what happened here. Those could be in one of the jurisdictions where potential bad acts occurred (Los Angeles or Seattle, perhaps). It could be in New York since AMI is already tangled up with the the Trump Organization/Michael Cohen investigation. It could be state or federal. We don’t know. It is also possible there are congressional investigations and even conceivably counter-intelligence investigations, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. One thing is clear. If Bezos is being on the up and up here this is already a more serious situation than we realized.
“President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”
“Back to the story: Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is “apoplectic” about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”
This is the biggest breadcrumb. It may be too obvious to call it that. We know President Trump has a relationship with the Enquirer. Much less known is the relationship with the Saudi government. Bezos goes out of his way to suggest that what happened here may be tied to Saudi Arabia and specifically the controversy over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
In the Dylan Howard email Bezos excerpts, Howard frames the extortion demand around the claim that “The Washington Post [is] poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report.” This must mean the Enquirer’s initial story on Bezos’s affair. This could mean a lot of things but it’s consistent with the possibility that the Post’s reporting on Khashoggi has intersected with the reporting on Bezos. Clearly, AMI wanted Bezos to kill whatever story they think the Post is going to publish. Big picture though, Bezos and his investigators think Saudi Arabia plays a key role here. That’s big for numerous reasons, not least of which is that states can carry out state-level hacking enterprises.
“On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake.”
As I noted in the earlier post, knowledgable ex-prosecutors seem to think this effort would not be prosecutable as extortion or blackmail, even though it meets the colloquial definition. But Bezos here suggests they’ve got multiple examples of a pattern of conduct. These people probably aren’t willing to go public as Bezos has. But that’s a big cudgel in Bezos’ hands, especially if these other ‘independent investigations’ are really underway.