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11 February 2019, 10:37 GMT
By Josh Lederman
The company that publishes the National Enquirer was concerned enough that it may have acted as an agent of Saudi Arabia, that it asked the Department of Justice last year whether it should register as a foreign lobbyist, a person with knowledge of the lobbying activities of Saudi Arabia in the United States confirm NBC News.
The communication between the Ministry of Justice and American Media Inc. offers the most complete picture to date of interactions between the publisher of the gossip magazines and the Saudis prior to the release of AMI last year from a magazine about the young leader of Saudi Arabia. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, who accuses AMI of blackmailing him with intimate photos, has wondered whether Saudi Arabia may have been involved, an allegation denying the kingdom.
A letter from lawyers of Justice of Justice from July 2018 to AMI and posted on a website of the government shows that the National Security Division of the Ministry of Justice has finally told the publisher that it is based on AMI & # 39; s own statements were not required to register. According to the Foreign Agent Registration Act, people or entities working to promote the political interests of another country in the United States must disclose their specific activities and register as foreign lobbyists.
"Taking into account the facts stated in your submission and our assessment limited to only the facts stated in your submission, we find that there is no agency relationship between [U.S. corporation] and a foreign client ", wrote the Ministry of Justice, referring to AMI.
Although the names of the parties are edited in the publicly released version of the letter, the timing, facts and circumstances correspond exactly to AMI & # 39; s unusual publication of the magazine about crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and his visit to the US in March 2018. familiar with the lobbying activities of Saudi Arabia, NBC News confirmed that AMI and the Saudi government are the entities referred to in the letter, which was first unveiled on Monday by The Wall Street Journal.
American Media Inc. (AMI) headquarters in New York on 7 February 2019. Jeenah Moon / Reuters
AMI produced the glossy magazine just before a whirlwind tour of the US by crown prince Mohammed, who was not an understanding in the US at the time. The magazine was sold to kiosks for $ 13.99, including in many rural states, and had no ads, raising questions about why AMI thought it would be a money maker for the company.
At that time, AMI said that Saudi Arabia had played no role in the production of the magazine, even when it became known that the Saudi Embassy in Washington had received a copy of the magazine a week before it reached newsstands.
But in his letters to the Ministry of Justice in May and June 2018, AMI acknowledged that it had asked a Saudi advisor to submit content for the magazine because the consultant had an early draft for the final version issued by the Saudi advisor.
According to the letter from the Ministry of Justice, state lawyers ruled that AMI did not have to register as a Saudi agent on the basis of the company's claims that it did not receive foreign funding for the magazine and that it was not required to the newspaper proposed changes to make the Saudi advisor. The identity of the adviser mentioned is unclear.
AMI's potential ties with Saudi Arabia are reviewed after Bezos, in his medium after attempting to blackmail AMI, argued that Saudi Arabia had been involved in giving AMI the "intimate sms" messages "or when inducing AMI to focus and humiliate him. Bezos specifically mentioned the example of AMI's Pro-Saudi magazine to point out that there have been questions for some time about whether its reporting is being influenced by external forces & # 39 ;.
Bezos wrote that a senior AMI official had recently told him and his lawyers that AMI's CEO, David Pecker, was "apoplectic" that Bezos had started a private investigation into how AMI received its text messages.
"For reasons that are still better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve", Bezos wrote.
Pecker has said through his lawyer that Saudi Arabia is not the source of the SMS messages that The National Enquirer has obtained, although AMI refused to identify the source.
"The obvious threat from Bezos' point of view is that we are going to link you to Saudi Arabia, we are going to say that you have hacked all these texts, we will blackmail the publication as much as possible," Pecker & # 39; s lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz , said Sunday on ABC & # 39; s "This Week."
Saudi Arabia also turned back on the suggestion of Bezos that it was involved in the leakage of his e-mails.
"As far as I know, flat no", Saudi State Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Friday to reporters at the Saudi embassy in Washington. With his own assessment of the situation, he added: "It's a soap opera."