Jeff Bezos opined recently that, “the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” and also cryptically inferred that his recent contretemps with American Media and David Pecker was linked to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, “for reasons still to be better understood.” What Bezos is unquestionably referring to at this juncture is the fact that David Pecker has been currying favor with Mohammad bin Salman for many years. Pecker seemingly has no problem attempting to blackmail American billionaire Bezos, while he does everything in his power to get into bed financially with the corrupt MBS government, including producing a pro-Saudi tabloid, which praised it. That move, incredibly, raised the issue of whether American Media might be a foreign agent of MBS, and Pecker put the question to the Justice Department. Wall Street Journal: American Media also produced a promotional magazine about Saudi Arabia. To commemorate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the U.S. in March 2018, American Media published 200,000 copies of a 97-page, advertisement-free glossy magazine titled “The New Kingdom,” promoting the country and its young prince, then 32 years old. In a sign American Media was concerned its connection to Saudi Arabia could become an issue, the company sought advice from the Justice Department last year about whether it should register as a foreign agent—a status under which any organization engaged in public relations under the direction or control of a foreign government may fall—according to a Justice Department letter to the company responding to its inquiry. The publisher wrote to the Justice Department after several news outlets wrote about the publication of the pro-Saudi magazine. […] A person familiar with the matter confirmed American Media wrote to the Justice Department after publishing the magazine celebrating Prince Mohammed. “Frankly, it was done to kiss his ass when he came to visit in the hopes he’d invest in the company and it didn’t work,” the person said of the magazine. “There was nothing more to it than that.” Pecker’s producing a pro-Saudi tabloid, “The New Kingdom,” while admittedly a bit bizarre at the time, is not a particularly surprising move if one considers how incestuous the relationships between Trump, the Saudis, and AMI have always been. Associated Press: The worlds of Trump, the Saudis and AMI have overlapped before, often in dizzying ways. The Trump administration has aggressively courted the Saudis and found a willing partner on a range of issues, including Iran, counterterrorism and Middle East peace, in the kingdom’s royal family. And AMI’s flagship publication, The National Enquirer, has been accused by critics of acting as a keeper of secrets for Trump. AMI denies that it shared an advance copy of “The New Kingdom” with the Saudis or consulted with them on the project, and AMI says the Saudis did not pay the company to produce the magazine. But an individual with knowledge of the situation said AMI indeed reached out to Saudi officials in the U.S. before publication to seek help with the content. The Saudis never responded, said the individual, who wasn’t authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity. Merely sharing an advance copy with the Saudis, while a deviation from traditional journalistic practice, is not legally problematic for AMI. But the unusual circumstances and continuing mystery of the magazine’s origins have led legal experts to point out a […]
National Enquirer CEO David Pecker was well known for “publishing for an audience of one, “ i.e., Donald Trump, according to Jerry George, a 26 year veteran of the Enquirer speaking to CNN [as reported by Daily Mail] recently. He also told told Trump in no uncertain terms that there would be “no negative press on Trump or his organization.” George said, “When David Pecker came on as CEO, he brought with him a silent editor, and that was Donald Trump.” But now, the Trump/Pecker narrative has changed and George says, “I think there’s a very strong chance that David Pecker may end up doing time.” What’s changed, is that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ standing up to the National Enquirer’s alleged blackmail attempt over “dick pics” of Bezos with his girlfriend, may have invalidated Pecker’s immunity deal with federal authorities, (made in connection with a $150,000 payoff to a former Playboy model that Trump was allegedly involved with,) and Pecker is, understandably, more than a little upset. Vanity Fair: “Several days ago, an A.M.I. leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation,” Bezos wrote. “A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer. They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation. . . . In the A.M.I. letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: they will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we ‘have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that A.M.I.’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.’ If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they’ll publish the photos, and quickly.” […] Pecker, meanwhile, would appear to be licking his wounds. There’s already speculation that the blackmail allegations could blow up his immunity deal, which expressly warned against illegal activity over the next three years. On Friday morning, A.M.I. issued a cautiously worded statement on the matter: “American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him. Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.” Bezo’s blog post has been described as “the everything story” from the man who gave us the Everything Store.The Atlantic: But Bezos’s post did something that has become common in this cultural-political moment. His blog post is, well, a blog post. But it is also so salacious, so bizarrely stimulating, that it overwhelms the thinking brain and presents instead as pure spectacle. In a little more than 2,000 words, Bezos seemed to rip every headline out of the newspaper and bind them in an eternal neon braid: the mighty power of billionaires, the immiseration of American journalism, the thin smudge of porniness that smartphones have layered onto reality—all of that, and President Donald Trump (who is a close friend of David Pecker, AMI’s chief executive), and the corruption […]
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