In a shocking post in February, Bezos alleged that National Enquirer publisher AMI blackmailed him by threatening to publish intimate photos if he did not publicly state that the tabloid’s coverage of him was not politically motivated.
AMI has maintained that it acted lawfully in its reporting on Bezos. De Becker said his investigation had concluded “with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone and gained private information.”
Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post, which has run critical coverage of the Trump administration and the Saudi government. In October, Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, sparking international outrage against Riyadh.
“Some Americans will be surprised to learn that the Saudi government has been very intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the Post began its relentless coverage of Khashoggi’s murder,” de Becker said.
De Becker went on to say that it is unclear if AMI was aware of the details, but pointed to what he called a close relationship between AMI chairman David Pecker and the Saudi government. The Saudis have previously denied having anything to do with the National Enquirer’s coverage of Bezos.
“This is something between the two parties, we have nothing to do with it,” Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in February.The Saudi embassy could not be immediately reached for comment.
De Becker said his investigation quickly identified Michael Sanchez, the estranged brother of Lauren Sanchez, as a paid source of the National Enquirer. AMI has said Michael Sanchez was the single source for the story.
But de Becker suggested that “the initial information came from other channels—another source or method.”
A spokesperson for AMI, in a statement to CNBC, maintained that Michael Sanchez was the single source for The National Enquirer story: “There was no involvement by any other third party whatsoever,” the company said.
The full statement from AMI:
Despite the false and unsubstantiated claims of Mr. de Becker, American Media has, and continues to, refute the unsubstantiated claims that the materials for our report were acquired with the help of anyone other than the single source who first brought them to us. The fact of the matter is, it was Michael Sanchez who tipped the National Enquirer off to the affair on Sept. 10, 2018, and over the course of four months provided all of the materials for our investigation. His continued efforts to discuss and falsely represent our reporting, and his role in it, has waived any source confidentiality. There was no involvement by any other third party whatsoever.
De Becker said the findings of his investigation have been turned over to federal officials.
Spencer Kimball, CNBC
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