Prosecutors looking into National Enquirer after Jeff Bezos blackmail allegations: sources – National

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The Nationwide Enquirer’s alleged try to blackmail Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with intimate pictures might get the tabloid’s guardian firm and prime editors in deep authorized hassle and reopen them to prosecution for paying hush cash to a Playboy mannequin who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump.

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Federal prosecutors are taking a look at whether or not the Enquirer’s feud with Bezos violated a cooperation and non-prosecution settlement that just lately spared the gossip sheet from costs within the hush-money case, two folks acquainted with the matter advised The Related Press on Friday.


READ MORE:
Jeff Bezos says Nationwide Enquirer proprietor threatened to publish intimate pictures of him

The conflict between the world’s richest man and American’s most aggressive grocery store tabloid spilled into public view late Thursday when Bezos accused it of threatening to print pictures of Bezos and the girl with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

He stated the Enquirer made two calls for: Cease investigating how the publication just lately obtained personal messages that Bezos and his girlfriend had exchanged. And publicly declare that the Enquirer’s protection of Bezos was not politically motivated.

WATCH: Jeff Bezos alleges that Nationwide Enquirer threatened to publish intimate pictures of him

Enquirer proprietor American Media Inc. stated Friday that its board of administrators ordered a immediate and thorough investigation and can take “no matter acceptable motion is important.” Earlier within the day, the corporate stated it “acted lawfully” whereas reporting the story and engaged in “good-faith negotiations” with Bezos.

In latest months, the Trump-friendly tabloid acknowledged secretly aiding Trump’s White Home marketing campaign by paying $150,000 to Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal for the rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump. The corporate then buried the story till after the 2016 election.

Trump’s longtime private legal professional and fixer Michael Cohen pleaded responsible final yr to costs that included serving to to dealer that transaction.

READ MORE: Jeff Bezos’ divorce information offers Amazon traders ‘pause for thought’

Federal prosecutors thought-about the fee an unlawful company contribution to Trump’s marketing campaign. In September, although, AMI reached an settlement with federal authorities that spared it from prosecution.

It promised within the settlement to not break any legal guidelines. The deal additionally required the persevering with cooperation of prime AMI executives, together with CEO David Pecker and Enquirer editor Dylan Howard.

Now, federal prosecutors in New York are taking a look at whether or not AMI violated these phrases, the folks acquainted with the matter stated. They weren’t approved to debate the matter publicly and spoke to AP on situation of anonymity.

WATCH: ‘Unsure’ if Trump conscious of Bezos bombshell, WH Deputy Press Secretary says

A violation of the settlement might result in legal costs over the McDougal funds. And the ensuing court docket proceedings might lay naked particulars of the gossip sheet’s cozy relationship with the president.

The Enquirer and prime executives is also topic to state and federal extortion and coercion costs and prosecution beneath New York Metropolis’s revenge porn regulation, handed final yr, which bans even the specter of sharing intimate images, authorized consultants stated.

The U.S. legal professional’s workplace in Manhattan declined to remark.

READ MORE: Jeff Bezos’ divorce information offers Amazon traders ‘pause for thought’

Carrie Goldberg, a Brooklyn lawyer representing revenge-porn and sex-crime victims, stated Bezos’ account laid out a transparent case of legal coercion.

The Enquirer has “weaponized journalism and made it into this bartering, brokering factor the place it’s like, ‘If I can blackmail you with the menace — I’ll expose this except you’ve received one thing higher,’” Goldberg stated.

WATCH: Trump delivers assault on Amazon and CEO Bezos

It’s a federal crime to threaten to injure somebody’s fame in change for cash or a “factor of worth,” although federal courts haven’t made it clear whether or not a public assertion, just like the one demanded by AMI, might be thought-about one thing of worth. Bezos stated the Enquirer didn’t demand cash.

Former New York federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers stated prosecutors are in all probability weighing the professionals and cons of maintaining the cooperation settlement in place.

WATCH: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and spouse MacKenzie have determined to divorce following an extended separation

The settlement secures Pecker’s testimony in any future circumstances stemming from the hush-money funds, whereas successful a legal case over the Bezos matter could be removed from clear-cut, Rodgers stated. The corporate might say it was counting on the recommendation of its counsel and even cite First Modification protections, she stated.

The Bezos camp has instructed the Enquirer’s protection of his affair was pushed by soiled politics. Trump himself has criticized Bezos on Twitter over his possession of The Washington Put up and Amazon.

READ MORE: Trump provides new nickname to arsenal, calls Amazon CEO ‘Jeff Bozo’

Bezos’ extramarital affair turned public when the Enquirer ran a Jan. 9 story about him and Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor who can be married. Bezos then employed personal investigators to learn how the tabloid received texts and pictures the 2 exchanged.

Bezos’ private investigators, led by his safety advisor Gavin de Becker, have been specializing in Sanchez’s brother, in line with an individual acquainted with the matter. The individual wasn’t approved to debate the matter publicly and spoke on situation of anonymity.

READ MORE: Nationwide Enquirer CEO given immunity for sharing information about Trump, Cohen: reviews

Michael Sanchez is his sister’s supervisor, a Trump supporter and an acquaintance of Trump allies Roger Stone and Carter Web page.

Sanchez didn’t instantly reply to an e-mail looking for remark. In a tweet, he stated de Becker “spreads faux, unhinged conservative conspiracy theories.”

WATCH: Jeff Bezos mocks Trump in Steve Carrell SNL skit

Bezos detailed his blackmail allegations in a rare weblog publish. The intimate pictures at difficulty embody a “under the belt selfie” of Bezos and several other revealing pictures of Sanchez, in line with emails Bezos launched of his exchanges with AMI.

“After all I don’t need private pictures revealed, however I additionally received’t take part of their well-known follow of blackmail, political favors, political assaults, and corruption,” Bezos stated in explaining his choice to go public. “I favor to face up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”

WATCH: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says Nationwide Enquirer tried to extort him

Balsamo reported from Washington. Related Press writers, Brian Melley in Los Angeles, Rachel Lerman in San Francisco and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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