Over the weekend, Will Bunch did a great tweet stream linking Jeff Bezos, National Enquirer, the Saudis, Jamal Khashoggi, and Donald Trump, along with others. He promised he would put it into a column, and here it is. It’s more cautious than the tweet stream, but fairly interesting. He introduces a number of possibilities by asking questions, a relatively safe way to introduce thoughts that you don’t have journalistic confirmation for. They are good questions, worth keeping in mind as things proceed.
Only now is the world figuring out that making up stories to sell papers may have been the least of the sins committed by the Enquirer, which was propped up in its 1950s’ infancy by Mafia money and which later forged a close relationship with Roy Cohn, the notorious New York fixer attorney who took an up-and-coming New York developer named Donald Trump under his wing while fighting off allegations including (wait for it) extortion and blackmail.
He gives a fair bit of background. It’s not entirely clear how the Enquirer got the material on Bezos. Joel Zamel runs a company or two that do both intelligence and propaganda and may be involved in that and other areas of Trump corruption. It’s becoming clear that blackmail is a major tool of associates of Trump. The National Enquirer has been involved in information operations for Trump for some time. That’s most recently what got them in trouble – buying up stories from a Trump mistress, which amounts to hush money and not quite legal.
As a result of that, the judge gave them a lenient sentence under the condition they not violate the law again. Legal Twitter is somewhat divided, but leaning toward the latest antics being blackmail, extortion, or possibly both.
Trump thinks Bezos is an enemy because the Washington Post has not glorified his reign and has been tweeting against him for some time. So it wouldn’t be surprising if he sent his attack dog National Enquirer after him. Bezos, of course, put an end to that in his own way.
Any link between the Bezos phone hack and the Saudis or their allies (UAE, Team Trump) would be devastating — but what if de Gavin is on the trail of something darker? Like the truth behind Khashoggi’s murder? Or — given the ties between Team Trump, the Saudis, UAE and ex-Israeli intelligence that go back to the summer of 2016 — the truth behind the election of an American president?
This is what occurred to me over the weekend, as this all played out. An international ring of grifters and blackmailers has taken over several important countries, including our own.
Meanwhile, all this talk of blackmail and extortion is a reminder that two years into the Trump administration a president who promised America “the art of the deal” has instead tried to run the country the way he ran his business in the mobbed-up New York of the 1980s — with bullying, bluster, and personal threats. But when forced to play that hand over the border wall and the government shutdown recently, it failed miserably. Would it be a surprise if Trump continues to fall back on the only tactic that’s worked for him and his allies to get things done over the years, the dark art of the blackmailer?
Anyhow, read the whole thing. There’s a lot more there. Enough information is becoming available to start to build narratives of the Trump corruption and how other countries helped him in the 2016 election. But there are still lots of holes and multiple possible narratives. The questions Bunch poses are useful.
The latest New Yorker has a long article by Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow about Joel Zamel’s organizations and others, “Private Mossad For Hire,” and some of their interference in the 2016 elections.
Also, James Bamford, who has written reasonably competently about spying in the past, inadvertently demonstrates for us how disinformation works in an article in The New Republic, which finds that Maria Butina was merely an ambitious and gun-loving student who never should have been arrested. A friend of mine who knows a great deal about Soviet spying during the Cold War commented that what he sees today is complete amateurism. That amateurism could have helped to throw Bamford off the trail.