National Enquirer boss David Pecker could face federal charges amid allegations that his company, American Media Inc., tried to blackmail Jeff Bezos into backing off his investigation of the company's practices.
Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, accused the company of attempting to blackmail him with nude pictures that had been stolen from his cell phone. Writing for Medium, Bezos said the company sent lurid details of the nude and semi-nude pictures they had obtained and planned to publish if the newspaper did not back off its investigation of AMI.
"A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker's apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer. They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn't stop our investigation," he wrote.
The Washington Post had published investigations of AMI's role in keeping damaging stories about Donald Trump under wraps, and those investigations are reportedly still ongoing.
If the allegations are true, they could lead to very serious consequences for David Pecker. As the New York Post's Page Six noted, Pecker had cut a deal with federal prosecutors for immunity in the campaign finance violations that sent Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to federal prison. The National Enquirer had played a role in the scheme to keep women quiet who were accusing Trump of having extra-marital affairs with them, paying off former Playboy model Karen McDougal in exchange for the exclusive rights to her story about Trump, which the tabloid then scuttled.
The report noted that federal prosecutors are now investigating whether the National Enquirer violated its cooperation agreement, which could lead to serious charges for Pecker.
"The sword of Damocles will be hanging over their head," Jeff Tsai, a former federal prosecutor, told Page Six. "In the event there is, in fact, a federal crime that's determined to have occurred, then AMI and Mr. Pecker have a real problem on their hands."
There could also be more trouble for Donald Trump. Bezos worked with world-renowned security specialist Gavin de Becker with finding out how the National Enquirer was able to obtain his text messages, and de Becker reported that a government agency was likely involved.
"Gavin de Becker told us that he does not believe that Jeff Bezos' phone was hacked," Manuel Roig-Franzia told MSNBC. "He thinks it's possible that a government entity might have gotten hold of his text messages."David Pecker and AMI have said they believe they acted legally in regard to the communications with Jeff Bezos.