A Donald Trump associate has been accused of leaking the steamy sexts exchanged by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his mistress as his marriage broke down.
Michael Sanchez, the brother of Mr Bezos’s mistress Lauren, shared the couple’s explicit messages with the National Enquirer, according to multiple sources who spoke to the Daily Beast.
“I love you, alive girl,” wrote the billionaire to his married lover in one suggestive text. “I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon.”
In another message, he wrote: “I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight. I want to kiss your lips. I love you. I am in love with you.”
The racy texts between the Amazon chief and TV star Ms Sanchez were exposed by the Enquirer early last month, in what it called the “largest investigation” in its history.
Mr Bezos and wife MacKenzie announced their decision to divorce shortly before the tabloid published its first explosive report about the affair.
The Amazon boss then launched an investigation into whether Mr Trump was involved in leaking the salacious messages, becoming “increasingly convinced” that “political motives” were behind the stories, according to the Daily Beast.
‘TAKEDOWN TO MAKE TRUMP HAPPY’
Sources from the Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc, and another who spoke with top bosses at the firm, alleged the texts were sent to the tabloid by Mr Sanchez.
Mr Sanchez, an open supporter of the President who says he is his sister’s manager and publicist, denied any role in the leak. He said he learned of the affair last year and socialised with Mr Bezos and his sister several times, beginning last April.
Mr Sanchez said AMI sources had told him the Enquirer set out to do “a takedown to make Trump happy”, according to Mr Bezos’s newspaper, the Washington Post.
Documents seen by the Daily Beast reportedly showed Mr Sanchez thought the Enquirer had chased the story with “President Trump’s knowledge and appreciation” and support from Republicans “who THINK Jeff gets up every morning and has a WaPo meeting to plot its next diabolical attack on President Trump.”
AMI refused to comment on the claim Mr Sanchez was the leaker, although company lawyer Elkan Abramowitz told the ABC’s This Week on Sunday the source was “well known” to both Mr Bezos and Ms Sanchez.
Asked whether the leaker was Mr Sanchez, who has ties to Trump associates including Roger Stone, Mr Abramowitz said: “I’m not going to comment on what Michael Sanchez said. I’m not permitted to tell you, or confirm or deny, who the source is. I can tell you, it’s not Saudi Arabia. It’s not President Trump. It’s not Roger Stone. But I cannot tell you who the source is.”
Mr Stone — who is facing criminal charges related to the Russia probe — denied he or the President had a role in the leak on conspiracy website InfoWars. “The Daily Beast is about to publish a story claiming that I, working with President Trump and the NSA, hacked the cell phone of Lauren Sanchez, the paramour of Jeff Bezos, or that we hacked Bezos’ cell phone, and that we gave the information to the National Enquirer,” he said, adding that the claim was being “pushed by the Amazon PR people”.
The Daily Beast said all of those claims were false.
The divorce announcement made headlines around the world, with Mrs Bezos set become the world’s wealthiest woman if she takes half of her husband’s $US137 billion ($A194 billion) fortune.
Mr Trump, who has regularly attacked Mr Bezos during and before his presidency, tweeted: “So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!”
Early last year, Mr Trump accused Amazon of paying “little or no taxes” and ripping off the US Postal Service to the tune of “billions of dollars”.
Mr Trump is a close friend of AMI chief executive David Pecker and has a long and complicated relationship with the Enquirer.
In August 2015, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met Mr Pecker in Trump Tower with another member of the Trump campaign — who the Wall Street Journal reported was Mr Trump himself.
The AMI chief reportedly agreed to “help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”
Mr Pecker admitted last month to using the Enquirer to facilitate a hush money payment to one of Mr Trump’s alleged mistresses during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign — paying for the rights to Karen McDougal’s story and deliberately not publishing it.
Mr Trump denies directing Mr Cohen to make illegal payments — if he had, he would be part of a conspiracy to pay the company to silence his alleged mistress and enhance his election prospects — an offence that carries jail time.
After Mr Cohen’s offices were raided this August, AMI made an effort to distance itself from the President and tone down its previously fawning coverage, according to the Daily Beast.
Last week, Mr Bezos turned to blogging platform Medium to accuse the Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail” in a bombshell post. He claimed AMI executive Dylan Howard and his lawyer threatened to publish explicit photos of the couple if the Post did not cease its investigations into the tabloid and publicly declare that its reporting had not been “politically motivated.”
AMI told the Post last week: “American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise. End of speculation — and story.”
It said on Friday that it “acted lawfully” in its coverage of Mr Bezos — but would “thoroughly investigate” the Amazon CEO’s claims Mr Pecker tried to blackmail him with nude pictures.
‘TRUMPIANS IN MICHAEL’S ORBIT’
Mr Bezos’s investigators reportedly strongly suspected Mr Sanchez was the leaker, but there is no evidence Mr Sanchez hacked his sister’s phone and he has not been charged with a crime.
The Mirror earlier reported Ms Sanchez had shared the messages with a friend to boast about her relationship.
The friend apparently tipped off the Enquirer, whose journalists trailed the pair around the country for four months “across five states and 40,000 miles …. in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, (and) five-star hotel hideaways.”
The Mirror quoted sources close to the Amazon boss who said he was furious Ms Sanchez had been “so careless” to share details of their private conversations with friends and was “hugely embarrassed”.
But sources familiar with the investigation told the Daily Beast the probe had found no evidence she was involved.
Mr Sanchez has been a vocal supporter of Mr Trump, with one typical tweet claiming that “(Special Counsel Robert) Mueller’s pack of @POTUS-hating @TheDemocrats is leading an out-of-control witch hunt”.
Earlier this month, he posted a claim Mr Bezos’s chief investigator “spreads fake, unhinged conservative conspiracy theories, ‘dog whistle’ smears, with on-the-record quotes to trashy tabloids; all while his boss owns @washingtonpost & @Amazon.”
A source told the New York Post: “There are Trumpians in Michael’s orbit and at least one of these people was told about the affair in September 2018.”
Mr Trump is reportedly “obsessed with Amazon”, with his rich real estate friends complaining to him that the online retailer was killing shopping malls and bricks-and-mortar retailers.
He has long been aggressive towards the liberal Washington Post and its wealthy owner, tweeting in 2015 that the paper “loses a fortune” and Mr Bezos held on to it “for purposes of keeping taxes down at his no-profit company”.
Mr Bezos responded to that tweet with a joke about sending the then-presidential candidate into space. “Finally trashed by @RealDonaldTrump,” he wrote. “Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #SendDonaldToSpace.”
Anonymous sources told Vanity Fair Mr Trump’s vendetta was deeply personal.
“He’s off the hook on this. It’s war,” one source told the publication.
Another said, “He gets obsessed with something, and now he’s obsessed with Bezos. Trump is like, how can I f*** with him?”