He added that it is not clear whether the National Enquirer’s parent company American Media Inc., or AMI, “was aware of the details.”
AMI responded to de Becker’s allegation in a statement to CNN Business on Sunday saying that it relied on one source, Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, for its story.
“Despite the false and unsubstantiated claims of Mr. de Becker, American Media has, and continues to, refute the unsubstantiated claims that the materials for our report were acquired with the help of anyone other than the single source who first brought them to us … there was no involvement by any other third party whatsoever.”
Saudi Arabia denies any relationship to the Bezos story, according to de Becker. Saudi Arabian officials and de Becker did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment regarding the op-ed over the weekend.
In the Daily Beast, de Becker wrote that he and his team spoke with current and former AMI executives and sources, Middle East intelligence experts, Saudi whistleblowers and dissidents, as well as current and former advisers to President Trump, among others, before reaching the conclusion.
AMI chairman David Pecker is a longtime friend of Trump’s, and the Enquirer was one of Trump’s most reliable and enthusiastic media boosters during the campaign. The publisher has admitted to making a payment of $150,000 in cooperation with members of Trump’s presidential campaign to prevent former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s claims of an affair with Trump from being made public during the 2016 race. Trump denied the affair.
But de Becker claims that the National Enquirer knew about the messages before approaching Sanchez. Sanchez told CNN Business that AMI was already pursuing a story about the relationship when it came to him. He added that “de Becker’s latest smoke-and-mirrors distraction ” contained “zero evidence.”
In its statement, AMI said that “the fact of the matter is, it was Michael Sanchez who tipped the National Enquirer off to the affair on Sept. 10, 2018, and over the course of four months provided all of the materials for our investigation.” The spokesperson added that Sanchez’s “continued efforts to discuss and falsely represent our reporting, and his role in it, has waived any source confidentiality.”
The Saudis have presented shifting stories about Khashoggi’s fate, initially denying any knowledge before arguing that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to bin Salman’s inner circle, were responsible for the journalist’s death. Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor King Salman knew of the operation to target Khashoggi. US officials, however, have said such a mission — including 15 men sent from Riyadh — could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman.
In the post, Bezos noted that AMI has been investigated “for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government.”
De Becker also referred to the story as evidence of a connection between AMI and the Saudi government.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir has in the past denied any connection between his country and AMI to CNN.
-— CNN’s Brian Stelter, Oliver Darcy, Tom Kludt, Nicole Gaouette, Nada Altaher, Chandler Thornton and Sheena McKenzie contributed to this report.