Posts

The More Puzzling Inaction in SDNY: National Enquirer

As bmaz noted, SDNY released less redacted copies of warrants to search Michael Cohen’s property today, revealing many more details about Cohen’s negotiation of hush payments for Trump.

A lot of people are trying to figuring out how Trump and Hope Hicks avoided charges — the former for his very active involvement in campaign finance crimes, the latter for lying to the FBI. But an equally important question, I think, pertains to American Media Inc. AMI is a likely mention behind the first redaction in the redacted footnote where the government describes the disposition of the investigation.

After all, DOJ publicly announced in December that AMI — the parent company of the National Enquirer — had entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement with DOJ in September 2018. And they were involved in both campaign finance crimes, the hush payments to both Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. So they should be mentioned in precisely that spot.

But that raises questions about why the mention should be redacted. While the AMI NPA is not readily available from a search on the main DOJ website (I believe it used to be), it still remains linked on SDNY’s site. It’s public.

And, frankly, the closure of this investigation is just as suspicious with respect to AMI as it is with Trump and Hicks. That’s because Jeff Bezos published records in February showing AMI threatening to publish details that would embarrass him that raised real questions about whether AMI was in violation of its NPA.

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.

A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer. They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.

My lawyers argued that AMI has no right to publish photos since any person holds the copyright to their own photos, and since the photos in themselves don’t add anything newsworthy.

There were public reports at the time that SDNY was weighing whether these threats constituted a violation of AMI’s NPA. Those reports were all the more interesting as the National Enquirer exposure of Bezos’ affair seemed like a favor to Trump, who has long targeted Bezos.

If that references is to AMI, then it shouldn’t be redacted, as the fact of the NPA is public, even on SDNY’s own website. But if the entire investigation — including into AMI’s possible follow-up violations of its DPA — it would suggest DOJ was going easy on not just Trump and Hicks, but also Trump’s favorite rag.

Open Thread: Is that a Smile? [UPDATE]

[FYI, update is at the bottom of this post./~Rayne]

I’m putting up an open thread since the BDTS thread is filling up as the Oversight Committee’s hearing continues.

There have been some developments in the case of National Enquirer owner AMI’s extortive letter to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, threatening to leak sext images exchanged with his paramour.

If you haven’t read Bezos’ open letter to AMI you really should. There’s something about AMI’s attempt that’s more than squicky; it smells sloppy and desperate.

Perhaps it merely reflects what Bezos says about AMI’s David Pecker — that Pecker was “apoplectic” about Bezos’ attempt to investigate the source of personal text messages leaked by AMI outlet National Enquirer.

Or perhaps it reflects some urgency related to the level of interest from other parties.

In any case, there were a number of discussions in Twitter last night as to whether AMI’s letter met the legal definition of extortion. Former fed prosecutor Renato Mariotti published a thread on the topic and former fed prosecutor Mimi Rocah also had questions about the letter.

Bloomberg reported today that the feds in SDNY are now looking into National Enquirer’s treatment of Bezos’ affair and whether it violates the agreement AMI entered into regarding the Michael Cohen “Catch and Kill” hush money case. The agreement prohibited further illegal activity.

What was it about Bezos’ private investigations that set off David Pecker so badly he’d not think about the implications to AMI’s agreements?

Bezos appears confident — though he hasn’t confirmed this in public — that the messages he exchanged with his married lover were entirely private. This suggests that their leakage was through illegal means.

Why would Pecker risk the possibility such an extortive act might expose illegal surveillance methods had been used against Bezos?

The one other recent case where Pecker’s name has come up in regard to aggressive surveillance and shaping news media coverage was that of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Pecker and Weinstein have been characterized as friends:

Mr. Weinstein held off press scrutiny with a mix of threats and enticements, drawing reporters close with the lure of access to stars, directors and celebrity-packed parties. Some journalists negotiated book and movie deals with him even as they were assigned to cover him. The studio chief once paid a gossip writer to collect juicy celebrity tidbits that Mr. Weinstein could use to barter if other reporters stumbled onto an affair he was trying to keep quiet. He was so close to David J. Pecker, the chief executive of American Media Inc., which owns The Enquirer, that he was known in the tabloid industry as an untouchable “F.O.P.,” or “friend of Pecker.” That status was shared by a chosen few, including President Trump.

(source: Weinstein’s Complicity Machine, 05-DEC-2017)

Weinstein had hired Black Cube to bat clean up on stories about his sexually abusive behavior. Who referred this private investigation firm to Weinstein?

It’s also possible the effort to silence Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post (owned by Bezos through holding company Nash Holdings) was driven not by Pecker’s relationship with Donald Trump but by Pecker’s desire to do business in Saudi Arabia. What resources would have been used to obtain Bezos’ text messages if Pecker was already tied up with KSA?

Saudi Arabia has now responded by denying any involvement in the conflict between Bezos and AMI, minimizing the dispute as a “soap opera.”

Again, treat this as an open thread.
_______

UPDATE — 4:15 P.M. ET —

Activist Iyad El-Baghdadi has just finished a thread looking at the Bezos-AMI dispute. He had already pointed out each allusion to Saudi Arabia in Bezos’ letter; in his Twitter thread he says a Saudi whistleblower told him Crown Prince MBS is obsessed with the Washington Post and targeting WaPo journalists.

But the bit that clicked for me with regard to David Pecker: with its extortive letter attempting to blackmail performance from Bezos, if AMI was acting on behalf of or in coordination with a foreign nation-state, they may be in violation of Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Now one needs to ask themselves, assuming AMI did this for MBS/KSA, was this the first time they acted on behalf of another nation-state? Or have they acted as agents for foreign powers before and it’s all in their vaults?

Where’s that popcorn?

Jerome Corsi’s Gazillion Dollar Lawsuit Against the Same Media Targets that Individual-1 Is Targeting

Jerome Corsi’s already frivolous lawsuit against Robert Mueller yesterday got still more sanction-worthy. On top of adding new defendants (including Jeff Bezos), he and his crack lawyer Larry Klayman asked for damages of [takes off glasses and peers closely] $1.35 trillion billions, of which $800 million million would come from Bezos, which — these fabulists claim — would be just 5% of his $140 billion net worth and not, instead, more than the richest man in the world is worth.

Admittedly, by the end of the day they had fixed these errors, now asking for an utterly modest $1.35 billion in punitive damages.

But I’m interested in what the amended complaint says about Corsi’s stunt.

Corsi justifies adding Bezos based off what is either an Infowars fabrication or an attempt to pre-empt a WaPo story that Mueller believes InfoWars paid Jerome Corsi $15,000 a month to keep him quiet.

In an email sent yesterday to lawyer Marc Randazza, the Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman states, “I’ve been able to confirm that Robert Mueller’s investigators have been asking witnesses about the financial relationship between Infowars and Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone’s role in helping Corsi get his Infowars job.”

Asking why Infowars hired Corsi, Helderman states, “Mueller seems to be exploring that the job was hush money in some way.”

Corsi was hired by Infowars in January 2017 to set up a Washington bureau. His contract renewed in January 2018 but then the relationship was ended in June 2018. Corsi was paid routine 6 months severance pay.

Corsi was hired at a time when the Roger Stone-Corsi conspiracy theory nexus tied to Wikileaks was not even being circulated. Corsi was fired because of his failure to adequately establish a Washington bureau, his failure to maintain White House press credentials, and his generally poor work performance.

Recall that Mueller also seems to be investigating whether Stone sent Randy Credico work in a bid to get him to sustain Stone’s claim he was the go-between with WikiLeaks. And Stone has said some of his campaign finance expenses were about throwing people who needed money some work.

In yesterday’s complaint, Corsi names not Helderman, but Manuel Roig-Franzia, along with Bezos.

Defendant Franzia is an individual, a reporter of WaPo working under and at the direction of Defendant Bezos and is on information and belief a citizen of Washington D.C.

Corsi names Franzia (who has done extensive interviews with Stone) because he’s the one who called Corsi about the allegations. Corsi claims that the day after Franzia called, Alex Jones’ daddy stopped paying him $15,000 a month.

Furthermore, on January 17, 2019, Defendant Franzia on behalf of Defendant WaPo telephoned Plaintiff Corsi to question him about information that Defendant WaPo had obtained from unspecified sources in the Office of the Special Counsel that Defendant Mueller was investigating monthly payments, which were characterized falsely and maliciously published as hush payments to Dr. Corsi so he would not provide “incriminating evidence,” about Alex Jones, InfoWars and Roger Stone before Defendant Mueller and the grand jury. These hush money payments to Plaintiff Corsi were maliciously and falsely represented to be made by Dr. David Jones, father of Alex Jones of InfoWars.

Defendant Franzia grilled Plaintiff Corsi about details of his relationship with InfoWars, David Jones, and Alex Jones. He indicated that his sources in the Office of the Special Counsel, and working under Defendant Mueller’s direction, told him Dr. David Jones was paying Dr. Corsi to influence and/or suppress and/or misrepresent and falsify his testimony to Defendant Mueller’s prosecutors and/or the FBI regarding Alex Jones and/or Roger Stone, as well as other government authorities.

Defendant Franzia told Plaintiff Corsi that Defendant WaPo that he had learned from the Special Counsel that Dr. Corsi was still today being paid $15,000/month by Dr. Jones.

As a direct result of Defendant Franzia and Defendant WaPo’s actions, directed by Defendant Bezos and carried out by Defendant Franzia and WaPo, working in concert with Defendant Mueller and the other Defendants, the very next day Plaintiff Corsi learned from Dr. David Jones that he was being terminated and would no longer be receiving $15,000 per month.

So rather than being cut off because Corsi testified against Roger Stone, he was cut off (in this fabulous complaint) because the WaPo is going to write that up.

While Infowars claims the hush money timing doesn’t make sense — because the payments started well before Corsi was subpoenaed — they actually time up to when Corsi may have deleted his pre-October 11, 2016 emails and when SSCI announced an investigation in January 2017. And Corsi seems to agree that his six months of severance got cut off (which he calls “terminatied”) sometime in the last month, in the wake of his revelations about his grand jury testimony.

Even as this is happening, Corsi is both trying to reassure Stone that prosecutors told him they would not be able to use his testimony that his August 2016 memo targeting the Podestas was a cover story.

And trying to back the Infowars/Stone claim that he was getting paid $15,000 a month not to work as part of a severance agreement.

And from this intra-rat-fucking fuckery, Corsi manufactures a $800,000,000,000,000 claim for punitive damages out of Bezos. And he does this, remarkably, even while claiming that Bezos’ company, Amazon, is a victim of the relentless Robert Mueller, because Amazon got a subpoena for a copy of the hard cover copy of Corsi’s book (which must differ from the online version that is already out).

Defendants have also threatened threatened Amazon.com, a distributor of Plaintiff Corsi’s new book, “Silent No More: How I Became a Political Prisoner of Mueller’s ‘Witch Hunt,’” published by Post Hill Press, with a subpoena to obtain a pre-publication copy of the hardback in-print version of the book when Defendant Mueller and the FBI federal could very easily obtain an already in print copy of the ebook and/or audiobook version of the same book on the internet. [my emphasis]

So Bezos is both villain and victim in Corsi’s fevered imagination. But being a victim won’t get him off the hook for $800,000,000,000,000 in damages.

I find the targeting of Bezos, coming in the same week that National Enquirer did a hit job on his affair, curious timing.

I also find one other detail of this amended complaint worthy of notice.

A big part of Corsi’s lawsuit is premised on the nonsense claim that Mueller leaks.

One of the paragraphs that got amended (the Ali Dukakis reference was always there) now works in a detail about last week’s BuzzFeed story, using the BuzzFeed story to substantiate Corsi’s claim Mueller leaked about him.

For instance, and as just one example, an article published by ABC News titled “Conspiracy Theorist Becomes Key Figure as Mueller Builds Case” contains confidential information regarding the grand jury proceedings about Plaintiff Corsi that could only possibly have come from Defendant Mueller.3 Consistent with the leaks concerning Plaintiff Corsi, it was recently revealed that a major leak concerning President Donald J. Trump was made by Defendant Mueller to BuzzFeed, namely that the president had ordered his private legal counsel Michael Cohen to lie to congressional committees over the Trump organization’s business dealings with Russia. After calls for a U.S. Justice Department investigation of this leak in particular – notwithstanding that the undersigned counsel had already filed complaints on behalf of Plaintiff Corsi and others concerning the Special Counsel’s continuing and harmful criminal grand jury leaks among other allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and illegality – Defendant Mueller, to try to cover his illegal tracks and head off a Department investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General — falsely repudiated what BuzzFeed had reported were indeed leaks from the Special Counsel.

That is, along with all the other shit in this complaint, Corsi is now suggesting that BuzzFeed’s story (which public evidence suggests likely came from SDNY sources) is proof that Mueller leaks because for the first time ever Peter Carr issued a correction probably in part to make it clear that Mueller wasn’t the source for the story.

And, curiously, Corsi makes that claim based on the representation that everyone was calling for a leak investigation on Friday. As far as I know, such calls really began when Rudy mentioned it on a Sunday show, which Ben Smith then pointed back to in his Reliable Sources appearance later that day.

Don’t get me wrong. I have zero doubt there will be a leak investigation into this story. But Corsi seems to have more knowledge of that than other people. Which I find curious, for a guy complaining about leaks.

Look, I don’t expect anyone to make sense out of this gazillion dollar lawsuit. It was never a serious lawsuit — not even when it made unsupported claims about NSA surveillance and media leaks. But yesterday it became far more of a messaging vehicle, a messaging vehicle targeting the same targets that the President is targeting.

This may be all this pack of rat-fuckers has left. But the specific form of their conspiracies deserves some notice.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

According to PropOrNot’s Conspiratorial Criteria, WaPo Is a US Intelligence Outlet

I hope to have more to say about the whackjob story the WaPo peddled over the weekend about the shady “PropOrNot” effort to identify and blacklist Russian influenced media outlets, which according to the anonymous people behind it include Naked Capitalism, TruthDig, Consortium News, and Truthout. In the meantime, I’ve put some resources below (and am working on a page curating links about all the claimed Russian plots this year, credible and no).

But I wanted to look at how WaPo itself stacks up according to one of the criteria laid out in WaPo’s “news” piece on propaganda.

Here’s how the WaPo’s propaganda hunters identify propaganda outlets directed by the Russian state:

The researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages. Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity. [my emphasis]

One of the clues, these researchers say, is to ID common ownership between known state entities and other media outlets.

That got printed in the Washington Post, a media outlet owned by Jeff Bezos. Bezos is an oligarch currently worth around $62 billion dollars, largely through his ownership of almost 17% of Amazon’s stock.

And Amazon is a US government contractor, providing cloud services to the Intelligence Community.

In other words, WaPo and the Intelligence Community’s cloud contractor share a common owner, one of the world’s richest oligarchs, the kind of link that if Bezos were a well-connected Russian oligarch would easily mark the news outlet as propaganda.

I’m not making that argument. Thus far, at least, WaPo’s editorial focus doesn’t seem to have changed in the Bezos era (aside from decisions about coverage of DC areas news). It’d be hard to distinguish an IC-directed editorial slant from what the Neocon WaPo editorial page has had for a decade and a half under Fred Hiatt. WaPo’s news, on the other hand, has continued to provide a range of both great and questionable reporting; its reporters are roughly about as tied into the IC as the NYT.

In other words, WaPo remains what it was before an oligarch with financial ties to the intelligence community bought it. But we know that reading its content with a critical view, not by mapping out perceived and real connections. Doing that mapping would mark the WaPo as a clear government propaganda outlet that it is not.

This kind of conspiracy theorizing gets dangerous quickly. Even the WaPo — especially the WaPo — cannot afford such games.

Critiques of PropOrNot

  • Matthew Ingram judges that the effort to expand known Russian outlets to a global conspiracy gets out of hand.
  • Max Blumenthal examines some of the funding and past politics of those involved in campaign.
  • Hannah Gais examines PropOrNot’s weird definition of propaganda and (in an update) wonders whether its secretive team has ties to Ukraine.
  • Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald map out how sketchy the PropOrNot group is.
  • Matt Taibbi notes that the left has become as conspiratorial as the right traditionally has been.

Responses from those blacklisted

CIA’s Cloud Storage Just Bought the WaPo

You’ve no doubt heard that Jeff Bezos just bought WaPo.

Which means the same guy who owns WaPo also provides the CIA with its new cloud storage (unless IBM succeeds in their bid to challenge it).

I’m sure this will have an utterly salutary effect on the news business.