In his extraordinary Medium post last week accusing American Media Inc. of “extortion and blackmail,” Jeff Bezos hinted (but did not explicitly state) that there may be a connection between Saudi Arabia and the publication of his personal messages with Lauren Sanchez. Now Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir has denied it was involved, stating during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the Saudi government had “nothing to do with it.”
Last month, the National Enquirer published a series of texts between Bezos, who is separated from wife MacKenzie Bezos, and Sanchez. In his post last Thursday, Bezos claimed AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, threatened to release messages that included intimate photos unless he cancelled an investigation into the source of the leaks and stopped claiming AMI was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” Bezos wrote that “the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve with” AMI CEO David Pecker, a close associate of President Donald Trump.
(The Daily Beast reported earlier today that Lauren Sanchez’s brother Michael Sanchez was the original source of the messages. Michael Sanchez is a close friend of Trump adviser Roger Stone.)
During his interview with “Face the Nation,” al-Jubeir said, “This sounds to me like a soap opera. I’ve been watching it on television and reading about it in the paper. This is something between the two parties. We have nothing to do with it.”
Bezos did not directly accuse Saudi Arabia of being involved in the leaks, but he did note the web of connections between AMI, Pecker, Trump and Saudi Arabia. Bezos owns The Washington Post, which has reported extensively on the connection between crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Khashoggi was a Saudi Arabian dissident who wrote opinion pieces critical of bin Salman for the Post before he was killed in October. Though the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that bin Salman ordered the killing, Trump has repeatedly downplayed or disputed the crown prince’s involvement.
“Here’s a piece of context: My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote. “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.”
He added “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.”
AMI reached an immunity deal with the Department of Justice in December over hush money payment to Karen McDougal, who claimed she had an affair with Trump. If Bezos’ accusations of blackmail and extortion are true, its deal could be jeopardized.
Pecker’s lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, before the Daily Beast named Michael Sanchez as the National Enquirer’s source, that “it is absolutely not extortion and blackmail. The story was given to the National Enquirer by a reliable source that had been giving information to the National Enquirer for seven years prior to this story. It was a source that was well-known to both Mr. Bezos and Miss Sanchez.”