Pecker Moved On Saudis Like A Bitch, But He Just Couldn't Get There

How deep in the shit is the National Enquirer? Deep enough its parent company AMI explicitly asked the Justice Department whether they needed to register as lobbyists for Saudi Arabia under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. When Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn got busted for not copping to all their dirty work for Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and God only knows who else, Trump's buddy David Pecker had a major OH, SHIT moment. Because he'd just published a 97-page mash note to Saudi dictator Mohammed bin-Salman, and SDNY was already crawling all over him for the campaign finance scheme he cooked up with Trump's fixer Michael Cohen. The last thing he needed was to get charged with violating FARA. So he sent the DOJ a letter that said something like ...

Suppose a media company that mostly farts out stories of questionable veracity about celebrities being pregnant/cheating/descended from UFOs decides to publish a 97-page, full-color, ad-free love letter to the Saudi Crown Prince right as he's coming to America. We're, like, totally desperate for cash, and that guy MBS could front us $100 million without even blinking. So we printed up 200,000 copies of that nonsense and parked them at checkout counters, where we pretended that people were seriously going to fork over $13 to read about some dictator from NOT AMERICASTAN. Anyway, we solicited articles from one of MBS's trusted courtiers, and we let those guys review our puff masterpiece pre-publication. Which we lied about to journalists, LOL! But it's not like they ordered us to do any of those things in advance. We're not lobbyists, we're just whores. And is that so wrong?

OKAY, FINE we made all that up. But we read the redacted opinion letter the Wall Street Journal just dug up on the DOJ's website, and we're pretty sure we weren't that far off.

According to your submission, [U.S. corporation] created and published [publication] [text deleted], to coincide with the visit of [foreign government leader]. You have relayed that [U.S. corporation] thought that its readers would have a heightened interest in [foreign country] because of [text deleted]. According to your submission, at no time was [U.S. corporation] approached by the [foreign government leader], [his or her] representatives, or any other official or representative of the [foreign government] or any other foreign government with respect to publishing the [publication]. Nor, was there any foreign funding involved in its publication. You have stated that the decision to publish [publication] was solely [U.S. corporation]'s and was a business decision based upon anticipated revenue.

You also note in your submission that [U.S. corporation] contacted [advisor to foreign government leader], and invited [the advisor] to submit an article for the [publication]. [The advisor] accepted and submitted an editorial to be published in the [publication]. [The advisor] was also provided with a working copy of the draft [publication] for review. According to your submission, [the advisor] suggested some changes, recommended replacing some photographs with other, more palatable photographs, and offered additional images of the [foreign government leader] that could be used in the publication. According to your submission, [U.S. corporation] was not obligated, but chose, to accept the changes suggested by [the advisor].

Riveting stuff! But we can't help noticing that AMI told the Justice Department that publishing the MBS Joy Book "was a business decision based upon anticipated revenue." The AP reports that The Enquirer sold an average of 265,000 issues per week in fiscal year 2018, an 18 percent decline year-on-year. (And those issues are printed on used Kleenex, the cost of which is offset by ad-sales.) But parking 200,000 ad-free Penthouse Letters to the Crown Prince in Walmarts across Middle America was just good business sense?


The WSJ quotes a source inside AMI saying, "Frankly, it was done to kiss his ass when he came to visit in the hopes he'd invest in the company and it didn't work." So if you try and fail to become a foreign lobbyist by putting out a free tester first, then you don't have to register. Hooray!

AMI lawyer Elkan Abramowitz insisted to George Stephanopoulos that the Middle East Hottie story was published "for journalistic reasons" and not to curry favor with the deep-pocketed despot. Then he went on to 'splain how offering to put Bezos's dick pics in the vault if he would quit poking around in AMI's Saudi business and kill a Washington Poststory was definitely not extortion. So you know when Abramowitz says that "not one penny" of Saudi money went to finance the two private equity firms who bought up an 87 percent share of AMI since 2010, you can take that one to the bank.

We're pretty sure there are more shoes to drop yet on this one. So let's just leave you with this interesting thread from Iyad el-Baghdadi, president of the pro-Democracy Kawaakibi Foundation and host of the Arab Tyrant Manual podcast.

Watch this space!

[WSJ / DOJ Opinion Letter]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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