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Jeff Bezos Letters Weren't Extortion, David Pecker's Lawyer Says

Mark Niquette

The lawyer for the chairman of the National Enquirer’s parent company said there wasn’t any blackmail, extortion or political motivations involved in the fight between the tabloid and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.

Photos and other details about Bezos’s extramarital affair came from “a reliable source” known to Bezos — and not from President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia or Trump adviser Roger Stone, said Elkan Abramowitz, an attorney for David Pecker, chairman, chief executive and president of American Media Inc.

“It was a usual story that National Enquirer gets from reliable sources,” Abramowitz said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. He didn’t name the source.

In a public blog post Feb. 7, Bezos published letters from lawyers representing AMI who demanded he drop a private investigation into the company — or else it would publish more embarrassing photographs about the wealthy businessman. Bezos accused the National Enquirer publisher of extortion.

Bezos’s post referenced Pecker’s connections with the Saudis and suggested more would come to light. The Amazon founder, who also owns the Washington Post, also appeared to be making references to that paper’s aggressive investigation of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for the paper, and the seeming reluctance of the Trump administration to hold Saudis responsible despite that assessment by the intelligence community.

“It absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail,” Abramowitz said. He suggested the letters were an attempt to resolve differences because Bezos didn’t want another story about him and AMI “did not want to have the libel against them that this was inspired by the White House, inspired by Saudi Arabia or inspired by the Washington Post,” the lawyer said.

A Saudi Arabian envoy, Adel al-Jubeir, said in an interview airing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the kingdom had nothing to do with the leaks to AMI and “this sounds to me like a soap opera.”

Federal prosecutors are reviewing the National Enquirer’s handling of its story about Bezos to determine whether the company violated an earlier cooperation deal with prosecutors, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Bezos Blackmail Charge Intensifies Proxy War With Trump

AMI agreed not to commit crimes as part of that deal to avoid prosecution over hush-money payments to women who claimed relationships with Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, played a pivotal role in some of the payments and has pleaded guilty to related charges.

Asked whether he’s worried that the Bezos revelations have put the cooperation agreement in jeopardy, Abramowitz responded, “absolutely not.”

Abramowitz also said while AMI has sought financing from the Saudis, it “never obtained any, doesn’t have any Saudi Arabian finance.”

Bezos said last month that he and his wife, MacKenzie, were divorcing, in an announcement that came just hours before the Enquirer reported that Bezos had been having a relationship with another woman. Bezos hired a private investigator, Gavin de Becker, to learn how the texts were obtained and “to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer.”