I know this opinion is controversial but I really think season three of “President Trump” might be the best season yet.
Washington Posts @RoigFranzia says Bezos' team thinks it's possible that the text leaks were politically motivated and that a "government entity" accessed the Bezos texts and hoo boy that's certainly something pic.twitter.com/MQuzNFbCed
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) February 8, 2019
My first thought when I watched that clip was, “Is … is he suggesting that Trump secretly ordered some federal agency to hack Bezos’s dick pics to ruin him?” That’s hard to believe, not so much because it’s beneath POTUS as because the risk that it would leak and drown the agency in mega-scandal would be high enough to put the NSA or CIA off of doing it. (I think.)
But that’s not what the reporter is suggesting, I believe. Tellingly, he doesn’t refer to a “government agency.” He references a government entity. Go back to Bezos’s post last night about blackmail and the Enquirer. Were there any “government entities” mentioned there in connection with this clusterfark? Why, yes: The Saudi regime, which has an enemy in Bezos due to his newspaper’s employment of Jamal Khashoggi and its ongoing coverage of Khashoggi’s mysterious death in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Bezos strongly implied that the Saudis are mixed up in his hacking somehow:
AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, led by David Pecker, recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice related to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign. Mr. Pecker and his company have also been investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government…
The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles…
Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is “apoplectic” about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.
Bezos also made a point of quoting an old NYT story about Pecker joining Trump for dinner at the White House accompanied by “a guest with important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia. At the time, Mr. Pecker was pursuing business there while also hunting for financing for acquisitions…” It so happens that the Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, produced a glossy magazine last year entitled “The New Kingdom” with a print run of 200,000 copies, destined for supermarkets across the U.S. It was out-and-out propaganda for Mohammed bin Salman but the Saudis insisted they had nothing to do with it. AMI claimed that it “had no outside editorial or financial assistance, from the Trump administration or otherwise,” according to the Daily Beast. Why would a company that makes its money pushing lurid celebrity scandals to readers decide to shovel a bunch of dough at a project aimed at celebrating political reforms undertaken by an Arab leader?
Maybe there’s nothing nefarious to it. Could be that AMI was eyeing business opportunities in the Kingdom and decided to kiss a little ass by freelancing some propaganda for the new de facto king, to help with bin Salman’s charm offensive towards western countries. Bezos clearly suspects there’s more to it, though. What that “more” might be is limited for the moment only by your imagination. Could it be that the Saudis were peeved at the Post’s Khashoggi coverage, decided to make Bezos pay, and knew they had the perfect courtier in AMI to circulate their dirt on him? Or that AMI wanted to punish Bezos because of the Post’s unflattering coverage of Trump and approached the Saudis to see if they could use their resourced to dig up some dirt? The Saudis might not have needed to “hack” Bezos’s phone to be able to do that — and you’ll notice that the WaPo reporter in the clip distinguishes “hacking” from “getting hold of” Bezos’s pics and texts. I took that as a hint that the “government entity” involved might have had ways to intercept the data from the pics and texts rather than hacking into Bezos’s phone remotely.
There’s also the possibility that AMI has dirt on MBS and/or other Saudi royals — or that the Saudis have dirt on AMI — and used that leverage to compel cooperation from the other party on this project. That would be an extremely dangerous game for AMI to play considering how the Saudis handled Khashoggi, but it would be in line with AMI’s approach to Bezos. Their M.O. with celebrity targets, it seems, is to say “Why should we be enemies when we could be friends?” Extortion compels cooperation and cooperation becomes partnership, perhaps. The president would have interesting things to say about how the tabloid world operates, I’m sure.
Speaking of which: You don’t need to believe that Trump was involved in any way to cook up a juicy Saudi/AMI conspiracy in the Bezos matter. But like I said last night, Bezos did seem to go out of his way to remind readers that AMI is linked to the Stormy Daniels matter and that Trump has a grudge against him over WaPo’s coverage of the White House. If you want to make this episode of “President Trump” super-juicy, imagine POTUS encouraging the Saudis and AMI privately to humiliate Bezos as revenge for the Post’s reporting on him. That sounds outlandish even by the usual freak-show standards of this drama, but Trump proved last fall with the Khashoggi matter that he’s willing to look the other way at virtually any crime the Saudis commit in the name of preserving the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Why? Is it because he really does privilege arms sales to the Kingdom over the fact that our good friend MBS is having people assassinated in his own consulates, or is it because the Saudis know things about him that would do serious political damage to him if he made an enemy of them? Maybe how the tabloid world operates and how the world of foreign relations operates aren’t so different.
Anyway. The board of AMI announced this morning that they’ll be investigating Bezos’s charges, which, as Gabriel Malor said, is like O.J. announcing his determination to find the real killer.