National Enquirer publisher asked DOJ if it should register as foreign agent: WSJ

American Media Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, asked the Justice Department last year about whether it should register as a foreign agent, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The company is back in the news after bombshell allegations made by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who accused the company of blackmailing him with racy photos they had acquired. Since then, more attention has been paid to AMI's ties to Saudi Arabia.

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AMI in the past has sought out financial backing from Saudi investors and celebrated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a special magazine in March. It unsuccessfully tried to acquire publications like Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money in the past and looked for financial backing from Saudi Arabia.

In the blog post in which he made the allegations, Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, raised concerns over the Saudi ties, suggesting that the Post's critical coverage of Riyadh might be connected to AMI's decision to report on his personal life.

“The Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos wrote in his Medium post. He also noted that AMI CEO David Pecker and his company have been “investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government.”

Pecker denied any extortion, and Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, told CBS on Sunday that Saudi Arabia had nothing to do with the Bezos scandal.

A July letter from the Justice Department stated that the department determined the company isn’t a foreign agent. The titles are redacted, but The Wall Street Journal suspects it is a response to AMI.

“We understand [U.S. corporation] to be a print media company that engages in the publication of a number of popular magazines. [U.S. corporation] also publishes, [other publications], each of which addresses a particular topic or public figure(s). According to your submission, these publications are funded completely by sales and do not contain advertisements,” the letter reads.

It is signed by Heather Hunt, the chief of the Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Act Unit.