Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors are reviewing whether American Media Inc. committed any crimes in the National Enquirer's pursuit of a story on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Bloomberg reported Friday.
On Thursday, Bezos accused the tabloid of blackmail and extortion with threats to publish initmate photos of him and girlfriend Lauren Sanchez.
Bezos wrote in a blog post that David Pecker, AMI's CEO, threatened to publish the photos unless he and his investigator, Gavin de Becker, made a statement that they believed the tabloid's coverage of him was not politically motivated.
The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, has been a longtime critic of President Donald Trump. The president has been a vocal critic of the Post.
Last month, Bezos and his wife of 25 years announced they were divorcing just before the Enquirer ran a story detailing an affair between Bezos and Sanchez.
"If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they'll publish the photos, and quickly," Bezos wrote about the Enquirer threat. He included in the post emails he said were from an AMI attorney to a lawyer representing de Becker.
"And there's an associated threat: They'll keep the photos on hand and publish them in the future if we ever deviate from that lie. Be assured, no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here," Bezos wrote.
The email from Jon Fine, deputy general counsel for AMI, to Marty Singer, de Becker's attorney, mentions that AMI would "publish, distribute, share or describe unpublished texts and photos" of Bezos upon the billionaire dropping his claim that AMI's coverage was politically motivated.
Bezos went on to suggest that AMI's threat could violate an immunity deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Trump in a probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Federal prosecutors in New York are reviewing AMI's handling of the Bezos story to determine if the prior cooperation deal was violated, Bloomberg News reported Friday, citing two people familiar with the matter.
In September, AMI agreed not to commit crimes in the search for news, as part of a deal by which it avoided prosecution over reporting of money paid to two women who said they had romantic relationships with Trump. The payments were made by Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer. Cohen pleaded guilty to related charges.
The deal between prosecutors and AMI stressed that AMI "shall commit no crimes whatsoever" for a three-year period and was required to produce "any document, record or tangible evidence" prosecutors requested.
When the Enquirer reported on the Bezos affair, accompanied by private emails and other confidential information, Bezos hired de Becker in an effort to find out how the tabloid obtained the information. Michael Sanchez, a friend of Pecker's and brother of Lauren Sanchez, denied leaking the material. De Becker suggested that the tabloid's investigation was politically motivated.
AMI Media said Friday it would fully investigate the claims made by Bezos.
"American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos," it said in a statement. "Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him.
"Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary," the statement concluded.