CNN reported on Wednesday evening that “two people with knowledge of the matter” had confirmed that Michael Sanchez, the brother of the woman with whom Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had an affair, was the person who initially tipped off the National Enquirer to the secret romance and set off a firestorm.
In January, the National Enquirer published text messages between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez detailing the affair, not so long after Bezos announced a divorce from his wife, MacKenzie Bezos. Bezos has since accused the tabloid and its parent company American Media Inc. (AMI) of extortion and blackmail for threatening to publish unreleased, intimate photos of him and Lauren Sanchez presumably leaked alongside the texts unless he released a statement absolving the Enquirer, which is sycophantically pro-Donald Trump, of any political motives in the matter.
CNN is the third publication to release a report implicating Michael Sanchez in some role regarding the leak of the text messages. Previously, multiple sources inside AMI, as well as another “in extensive communication with senior leaders” at the company, told the Daily Beast that the brother had provided the texts to the Enquirer. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that investigators working for Bezos had similarly concluded that Michael Sanchez was the source of the messages.
The CNN report does not explicitly confirm that Michael Sanchez was the one who obtained the texts (or as-of-yet unpublished photos), just that he was the one who tipped the National Enquirer off to the affair. But there is ample reason for suspicion.
Trump frequently fires off enraged rants about Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. In the president’s mind, “Jeff Bozo” is a nefarious schemer whose paper is totally beholden to Bezos’s business interests. Michael Sanchez is a “pro-Trump Hollywood talent manager who is also an acquaintance of provocative Trump backers Roger Stone and Carter Page,” per the Post, and frequently tweets about “fake news” conspiring to harm the president’s reputation.
(Stone is currently facing federal charges of obstruction, witness tampering, and making false statements in the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Page has drawn extensive attention from members of Congress and the FBI for his alleged ties to Russian intelligence.)
Beyond circumstantial evidence about the kind of company Michael Sanchez keeps and his political views, an AMI attorney’s description of the Enquirer’s source in the AP report was rather on the nose:
On Sunday, an attorney for the head of American Media, which owns the Enquirer, said that the information for the story had been provided by a “reliable source” well-known to Bezos and Lauren Sanchez. The source had provided information to the company for at least seven years, Elkan Abramowitz, an attorney for American Media Inc. chief executive David Pecker, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
He was asked if Sanchez was the source and he said: “I’m not permitted to tell you or confirm or deny who the source is.”
And from the Daily Beast article alleging Michael Sanchez was the one who actually provided the texts:
Documents reviewed by The Daily Beast show that Michael Sanchez believed the Enquirer pursued its story about Bezos with “President Trump’s knowledge and appreciation”—a chase encouraged, in Sanchez’s estimation, by Republican operatives “who THINK Jeff gets up every morning and has a WaPo meeting to plot its next diabolical attack on President Trump.”
On Wednesday, the Daily Beast separately reported that Michael Sanchez had leaked embarrassing details about other clients to AMI and its gossip properties.
The initial Daily Beast report noted that no one they had spoken to “implied that Michael Sanchez in any way hacked his sister’s phone,” and sources familiar with Bezos’s investigation had also shot down the implication of hacking. However, one of the sources familiar with Bezos’ investigation told the website there was universal internal agreement that Sanchez was “ground zero.”
The AMI attorney, Abramowitz, also said in his Sunday interview that “Any investigator that was going to investigate this knew who the source was.”
There is vague evidence to the contrary, such as it is. The New York Post, another nefarious tabloid, alleged “sources” said Lauren Sanchez had shown or forwarded the pics to friends—though said sources appeared to be speculating.
The National Enquirer has reportedly acted as a fixer of sorts for Trump in the past, buying the rights to embarrassing stories about him and then not publishing them. AMI’s chairman and CEO, David Pecker, received immunity from federal prosecutors in August 2018 for testimony about the president’s knowledge of payments Trump’s former attorney (and soon-to-be jailbird) Michael Cohen made to women who said they had affairs with Trump.
As the CNN report noted, Bezos implied when accusing the National Enquirer of extortion that Trump—or, bizarrely, the Saudi government—was involved in the decision to pursue and publish his text messages. Nothing showing that has come to light. And while the National Enquirer and Michael Sanchez appear to have robust sympathies towards the president, it’s still possible that this was all about a juicy scoop concerning the dalliances of the richest man in the world, rather than currying favor or embarrassing one of the president’s enemies.
Per CNN, Michael Sanchez denied leaking the texts and bizarrely claimed that Bezos’s own investigators had cleared him in a statement that came before CNN reported that he was the National Enquirer’s source.
“I have been told that the Amazon investigation determined that I was not involved in the leak of the d*ck pics, because I never had access to any of the d*ck pics,” Sanchez told CNN.
On Wednesday, CNN reported, he declined to comment on the record.