Jeff Bezos accuses the National Enquirer of 'extortion and blackmail'

A copy of the National Enquirer at a convenience store in New York City on Feb 8 2019

It reported that Bezos sent "sleazy text messages and gushing love notes" to Sanchez, months before Bezos announced he was splitting up with his wife, MacKenzie. Bezos began to investigate how the leak of his private information came about.

AMI chief executive David Pecker is an ally of President Donald Trump, who has criticized Bezos for the Post's reporting on his administration and conflated Bezos' ownership of the news organization and Amazon.

Since then, Mr Bezos opened an investigation into the leak led by Gavin de Becker, a public safety expert and special appointee of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan.

The Enquirer was also a major booster of Trump during the presidential campaign.

"I don't care about Jeff Bezos's personal life and I don't care if Trumplandia is out to make him look bad", Pachter said.

Mr. Bezos said he made a decision to publish the emails sent to his team "rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail", despite the "personal cost and embarrassment they threaten".

In September, the Justice Department agreed to a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, which requires the company and some top executives, including Pecker and Howard, to cooperate with authorities.

A lawyer for American Media did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

"The condition of that agreement is always - you don't commit any other crimes or the deal is off", he noted. "For prosecutors, your worst nightmare is watching a cooperation deal unravel". I'm glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing. The White House also didn't respond to a request for comment.

Dylan Howard's name, along with two National Enquirer reporters, appears on a story the magazine published on 9 January containing alleged details of Mr Bezos' affair with Ms Sanchez.

In addition, he included emails from AMI's deputy general counsel, Jon Fine, detailing a list of terms under which AMI said it would withhold publication of the photos.

In a statement to the Post, AMI rejected the suggestion that any external forces influenced its reporting on Bezos, which it has described as its largest investigation, consuming four months and covering 40,000 miles.

Taking a page out of Alexander Hamilton's revenge book, he published a lengthy post about the incident and owned up to the nudes he sent, "rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail".

"It's unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy", he wrote. President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. He also pointed to owning The Post and their coverage of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as potential reasons people could be targeting him.

The Bezos-Enquirer tussle may be another instance where the legal questions are eclipsed by a broader battle. It was allegedly using the blackmail attempt to stop Bezos from carrying out an investigation into how it had got access to the text messages. "It's ripped right out of the law books".

"It shows how complicated and unsafe it is to make an agreement with National Enquirer", Levenson said.

But the company has admitted in the past that it engaged in what's known as "catch-and-kill" practices to help Trump become president.

Mr Bezos's wealth now is valued at US$133.9 billion (S$181.6 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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