The brother of Jeff Bezos’ mistress, Lauren Sanchez, supplied the couple’s racy texts to the National Enquirer, multiple sources inside AMI, the tabloid’s parent company, told The Daily Beast.
Another source who has been in extensive communication with senior leaders at AMI confirmed that Michael Sanchez first supplied Bezos’ texts to the Enquirer.
AMI has previously refused to identify the source of the texts, but a lawyer for the company strongly hinted at Sanchez’s role during a Sunday morning interview on ABC.
“The story was given to the National Enquirer by a reliable source that had given information to the National Enquirer for seven years prior to this story. It was a source that was well known to both Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez,” attorney Elkan Abramowitz told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
Asked directly whether Sanchez was the source, Abramowitz said, “I can’t discuss who the source was. It’s confidential within AMI.”
An AMI spokesperson declined to comment for this story. Asked directly more than a half-dozen times whether or not he supplied the texts to the Enquirer, Sanchez declined to do so.
As The Daily Beast was the first to report, Bezos launched his own investigation into who leaked the texts. The security consultant he hired, Gavin de Becker, has repeatedly declined to disclose the findings of his investigation, including whether or not it had determined Sanchez was the culprit. But he did say the probe is over and the results will be turned over to the authorities.
“Our investigation into who initially provided texts to the National Enquirer, and why it was done—that investigation is now complete. We have turned our conclusions over to our attorneys for referral to law enforcement,” de Becker told The Daily Beast on Sunday.
“Our investigation into what the National Enquirer and [publisher] AMI did after they received the initial texts—that investigation is ongoing,” he added.
The identity of the Enquirer’s source was only one of the many mysteries in a tale that is sordid and tangled, even by supermarket tabloid standards. Still unresolved: why Sanchez allegedly supplied the information to the Enquirer; why the Enquirer promoted a story about Bezos with such vigor; what, if anything this had to do with the Enquirer’s long-standing support for Trump; why its parent company was so bothered by the suggestion that it was motivated by “external forces, political or otherwise”; and why AMI tried to later coerce Bezos with a previously-unreleased “d*ck pick.”
Documents reviewed by The Daily Beast show that Michael Sanchez believed the Enquirer pursued its story about Bezos with “President Trump's knowledge and appreciation”—a chase encouraged, in Sanchez’s estimation, by Republican operatives “who THINK Jeff gets up every morning and has a WaPo meeting to plot its next diabolical attack on President Trump.”
No one who spoke to The Daily Beast implied that Michael Sanchez in any way hacked his sister’s phone, and he has not been charged with any crime. In fact, three people familiar with the Bezos-funded probe told The Daily Beast in late January that it had found no evidence of a hack. However, Bezos’ investigators have strongly suspected Sanchez was the leaker since at least last week, according to two people familiar with the investigation. “There is no one inside this inquiry process who doesn’t believe he’s ground zero,” one of those sources said.
Abramowitz, the AMI lawyer, appeared to confirm this in his Sunday interview, saying, “Any investigator that was going to investigate this knew who the source was.”
The Daily Beast previously reported that de Becker had interviewed Sanchez as part of his probe. Of particular interest were his personal and business ties to some prominent figures in President Donald Trump’s orbit, including Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Scottie Nell Hughes. (Her private emails, it should be noted, were once leaked to an AMI-owned publication.)
As The Daily Beast previously reported last week, documents show that Sanchez and Stone were in touch about the National Enquirer story in the days after it ran.
“I’ve never hacked anyone,” Stone told The Daily Beast, which had neither suggested or asked if he had. “I do know Michael Sanchez—very good guy.”
He certainly was a reliable and public supporter of the president. “For anyone too stupid or too bitter to admit Mueller’s pack of @POTUS-hating @TheDemocrats is leading an out-of-control witch hunt, read about @jerome_corsi," Sanchez wrote in a more-or-less typical tweet. “Muellerism = McCarthyism.”
According to the Washington Post, Sanchez said he had heard from AMI staffers that the tabloid operation was in the middle of “a takedown to make Trump happy.”
And it did. The cover story and the highly unusual 12-page spread that accompanied what the paper called its “largest investigation” ever prompted President Trump to tweet, “So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor.”
Trump and AMI chief David Pecker have been friends for decades, and began working together professionally in the late 1990s, when a Pecker-led publishing company began putting out a quarterly, Trump-branded style magazine. In the years since, Trump was an extensive subject of and source for coverage by AMI-owned publications. And as Pecker has now admitted, he used AMI to buy up stories damaging to Trump and sit on them—a tactic known as “catch and kill”—most notably to bury the testimony of an alleged Trump mistress in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Documents show that Michael Sanchez believed the Enquirer pursued Bezos with ‘President Trump's knowledge and appreciation.’”
Pecker and his deputy, AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard, escaped prosecution for their roles in that scheme after agreeing to cooperate with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. That office is now examining whether AMI may have violated that agreement. Presumably, the attorneys retained as part of Bezos’ probe will turn over what information they have to the Southern District.
Though de Becker declined to identify the attorneys, The Daily Beast has learned they include famed Watergate Special Prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste, and William Isaacson, an partner at Boies Schiller Flexner. The firm has previously represented AMI.
Sanchez’s alleged involvement in the Bezos leak, and his ties to various Trumpworld figures, has informed investigators’ conclusions that the disclosure was at least in part politically motivated, a finding that drew intense efforts from AMI to insulate the Enquirer’s reporting from any allegations that they were seeking to please Trump, a close friend of AMI chief executive David Pecker.
But those efforts backfired in dramatic fashion this week, after Bezos publicly posted copies of emails sent by AMI executive Dylan Howard and lawyer John Fine. In one of those emails, Howard threatened to publish sexually suggestive photos of Bezos and Sanchez if the Washington Post didn’t back off its investigations of the Enquirer.
“American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise,” wrote Fine. “Any further dissemination of these false, vicious, speculative and unsubstantiated statements is done at your client’s peril.”
To Bezos, the mention of “external forces” seemed to suggest that AMI’s past promotion of the Saudi royal family might have informed its decision to pursue and publish with such unprecedented vigor its lengthy expose on Bezos’ affair. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos wrote.
—with additional reporting by Noah Shachtman