Bezos’s Story Spurs U.S. Prosecutors’ Scrutiny of AMI, Sources Say

(Bloomberg) -- Federal prosecutors are reviewing the National Enquirer’s handling of its story about Jeff Bezos’s extramarital affair to determine if the company violated an earlier cooperation deal with prosecutors, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office have been provided with information about key exchanges of concern to Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com Inc. In a jaw-dropping public blog post Thursday night, Bezos published letters from lawyers representing National Enquirer’s publisher, American Media Inc., who demanded he drop a private investigation into the media company, or else it would publish more embarrassing photographs about the wealthy businessman. Bezos accused the National Enquirer publisher of extortion.

The authorities are now reviewing the matter for potential criminal activity. If they find any, they must also weigh whether the conduct breached AMI’s previous deal to assist prosecutors. AMI agreed not to commit crimes as part of that deal to avoid prosecution over hush-money payments to women who claimed relationships with President Donald Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, played a pivotal role in some of the payments and has pleaded guilty to related charges.

The Bezos tabloid matter could prove embarrassing not only for AMI, but for others in Trump’s inner circle who have engaged with David Pecker, AMI’s overseer. Bezos’s post pointedly referenced Pecker’s connections with the Saudis and suggested more would come to light.

Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, 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.

Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, declined to comment, as did Jon Hammond, a spokesman for AMI.

It’s unclear whether the letters involving AMI’s and Bezos’s lawyers will lead to any criminal finding, given that the communications were presented in the form of negotiations between lawyers.

If a prosecutor believes a cooperation deal has been violated, “you have to look at it,” said Kan Nawaday, formerly of the public corruption unit in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which prosecuted the Cohen case. “You’re compelled to.”

The deal between federal prosecutors in Manhattan and AMI was struck in September. It stipulated that AMI “shall commit no crimes whatsoever” for three years.

AMI was required to produce “any document, record or other tangible evidence relating to matters about which this office or any designated law enforcement agency inquires of it.”

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.”

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