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Saudi official denies kingdom was involved in leak of Bezos' private texts

POLITICO logo POLITICO 2/9/2019 By Brent D. Griffiths
a person wearing a hat: "We ... maybe some of our citizens read The National Enquirer when they're in the United States," said Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi's minister of state for foreign affairs. © Achmad Ibrahim, File/AP Photo "We ... maybe some of our citizens read The National Enquirer when they're in the United States," said Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi's minister of state for foreign affairs.

A top Saudi Arabian official on Friday denied the kingdom was involved in the leak of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' private text messages and photos to the National Enquirer tabloid.

"Absolutely not," Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi's minister of state for foreign affairs, when asked by "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan about potential Saudi involvement, in an interview to be broadcast Sunday. "This sounds to me like a soap opera. I've been watching it on television and reading about it in the paper. This is something between the two parties. We have nothing to do with it."

In an extraordinary public statement posted to Medium on Thursday, Bezos said an investigation he directed into how the Enquirer obtained private messages he exchanged with Lauren Sanchez, with whom he was reported to be having an affair, had angered David Pecker, CEO of American Media, Inc., which owns the Enquirer, in part because "the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve."

Bezos further pointed to reports that Pecker was looking for business opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

The world's richest person, Bezos also owns the Washington Post, whose publisher and editorial board have been critical of the kingdom since columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct.18.

While not explicitly stated in his blog post, Bezos seemed to suggest a connection with the leaking of his messages and the Post's coverage of the kingdom.

When asked about the reports Pecker explored business in his country, al-Jubeir said that "as far as I'm aware," Pecker and AMI had no contact with Saudi government officials during its search.

"We ... maybe some of our citizens read The National Enquirer when they're in the United States," al-Jubeir told Brennan. "Other citizens watch the soap opera unfold on television but that's it."

In a statement released Friday, AMI defended its proposal to publish a nude photo of Bezos and other private pictures if Bezos did not end his counter-investigation of the company. AMI pledged to investigate the matter internally.

President Donald Trump and his administration have insisted on maintaining ties to Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi's death. On Friday, Trump missed a deadline imposed by a bipartisan group of senators to identify Khashoggi's killers and determine if the U.S. should impose sanctions on them.

Top Saudi officials, including al-Jubeir, have characterized Khashoggi's death as a rogue action that was carried out without the knowledge of the crown prince.

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