Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Was tabloid exposé of Bezos affair just juicy gossip or a political hit job?

When the National Enquirer published explicit text messages between Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos and the woman he was having an affair with, the world’s richest man made clear he wanted to find out how the tabloid got hold of his private communications.

Bezos commissioned an investigation into the Enquirer’s investigation of his love life, thereby leaping into a roiling mix of political attacks and conspiracy theories featuring the president of the United States, key figures in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, minor Hollywood celebrities and the owner of The Washington Post, Bezos himself.
Depending on whom you believe, the Enquirer’s exposé on Bezos’s affair was a political hit inspired by President Trump’s allies, an inside job by people seeking to protect Bezos’s marriage, or no conspiracy at all, simply a juicy gossip story.
The saga might have been easily dismissed as little more than tabloid fare, but it has taken on a more serious cast in recent days. A volley of charges and countercharges about how and why the Enquirer launched its investigation has emerged for several reasons, including the history of the Enquirer, which has acknowledged taking actions during the last presidential campaign that benefited Trump politically. Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly lodged attacks on The Post’s coverage of him and on Bezos, who bought the news company in 2013. And Bezos, the head of a retail giant that is famously loath to comment to the media, has authorized his security chief to speak about his investigation.
Bezos’s longtime private security consultant, Gavin de Becker, has concluded that the billionaire was not hacked. Rather, de Becker said in an interview, the Enquirer’s scoop about Bezos’s relationship with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez began with a “politically motivated” leak meant to embarrass the owner of The Post — an effort potentially involving several important figures in Trump’s 2016 campaign.
As the Daily Beast first reported last week, de Becker has publicly named only one subject of his investigation, Michael Sanchez, Lauren’s brother and a pro-Trump Hollywood talent manager who is also an acquaintance of provocative Trump backers Roger Stone and Carter Page.
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But de Becker — who provided security for President Ronald Reagan’s guests and whose private security firm is popular among celebrities — is not the only one looking into who leaked the text messages to the Enquirer.
Michael Sanchez, whose Twitter feed colorfully defends Trump and slams reporting critical of the president as “fake news,” said in an interview that he has launched his own investigation into the origin of the Enquirer’s story and has sought advice from Stone and Page about the security of text and phone communications.
Stone, a longtime Republican operative and Trump adviser, has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering. Page is a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser whose trips to Moscow have drawn scrutiny from congressional investigators.


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