The Bezos Story Is Profoundly Troubling

[Content Note: Extortion; harassment; invasion of privacy.]

Late yesterday, Amazon and Washington Post magnate Jeff Bezos published a piece on Medium detailing an extortion attempt by AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, which is helmed by David Pecker, a longtime friend of Donald Trump.

The gist of it is this: AMI threatened to publish Bezos' private texts with the woman he was dating (while still legally married to someone else), including intimate images, if he didn't kill an investigation into AMI's journalistic malfeasance and "make the specific false public statement to the press that we 'have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI's coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.'"

Instead of capitulating, Bezos fought back, and now he's making that fight public.

The entire scenario is troubling on so many levels, especially since AMI has tried to extort other journalists in the same way, including Ronan Farrow and a number of AP reporters.

Primarily of concern to me is how AMI came to acquire Bezos' private text messages in the first place. (Which is something his personal investigator has been working to uncover.)

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch has some ideas about that, detailing them in a thread that begins with this tweet: "It came out of left field, but last night's bombshell developments seem to have exposed a tangled web involving the Saudis, MBS, their allies, Team Trump, global hacking rings, Khashoggi, the Washington Post, and Bezos that could take everything down."

AMI often gets ahold of compromising materials that it has effectively used to blackmail people for decades, and its usual play to secure those materials is money and lots of it. But that seems unlikely here. It seems more likely that these private texts were intercepted by a state actor who had an interest in silencing the Washington Post's investigations of AMI — and its pursuit of the truth about who was behind the murder of its columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Pecker has ties to Saudi Arabia, and, not long ago, AMI published "a slick, ad-free magazine" which was nearly 100 pages of favorable propaganda about Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that was sold in U.S. supermarkets.

Just a few months later, Pecker was given immunity by Special Counsel Bob Mueller as part of the Michael Cohen investigation. And he's apparently used that immunity to keep committing crimes on behalf of Donald Trump and his Saudi allies.

Which is another troubling piece of this, at least to me. Pecker got immunity, and this is what he's doing with it. Yesterday, we also found out, care of Tom Winter at NBC News, that Paul Manafort "continued working for a political client in Ukraine into 2018, after he had already been indicted in Robert Mueller's probe," which he was able to do, of course, because he was not remanded, despite being a known national security risk.

Jared Kushner is still in the White House. Manafort is still working with Putin-allied clients. Pecker is still harassing and threatening "enemies" of the president, possibly with the assistance of Saudi Arabia. I increasingly find it difficult to believe that the Mueller investigation will accomplish anything at all besides giving Republicans all the time they need to fully consolidate power.

As Bezos said in his piece, if this is what they feel like they can do to someone with his wealth and influence, what are these sadistic crooks going to use their continued freedom to do to dissidents who have nothing with which to fight back but their own voices?

I'm very sorry Bezos was put in this position, and I am very grateful that he was willing to make public this heinous campaign against him. I hope it will matter.

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