Bernard Kerik has become a reliable right-wing ranter for Newsmax, while hoping that people forget he's a convicted felon (whom Newsmax spent some time doing a little image rehab). Now he's rushing to defend Saudi Arabia regarding its alleged role in a scandal involving Amazon.com chief Jeff Bezos.
Kerik began his April 18 column by declaring, "I’m normally not interested in tabloid gossip, or someone’s personal affairs, but the recent scandal involving Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief executive and the National Enquirer, reeks of another political attack on President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia by the establishment media." He then declared that "Having lived and worked in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and as someone that was critical of the Kingdom after the killing of [Jamal] Khashoggi, I feel I’m fairly insightful and objective on the Bezos matter." Kerik then claimed:
This is why I find the mind-blowing international espionage conspiracy involving the Trump administration, Saudi Arabia, and the National Enquirer, laid out by Bezos’ long-time private investigator, Gavin de Becker, preposterous and a bit comical.
According to de Becker, the “Saudi government has been intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the Post began its relentless coverage of (Jamal) Khashoggi’s murder.”
He said, “Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos' phone, and gained private information.”
Who exactly are these experts?
Consider that numerous reports indicate that digital forensic analysis turned up “no evidence of a hack” and that theory was quickly discounted.
Meanwhile, the Trump-Saudi-Enquirer narrative set off a media firestorm making Bezos the victim of an international conspiracy.
Kerik is apparently referring to a Daily Beast article from January that quoted "three people familiar with the probe" in which the "no evidence of a hack" claim was made (not by "numerous reports," as Kerik claims). Since then, de Becker wrote in a March Daily Beast column that "the Saudis had access to Bezos' phone" -- which does not necessarily involve hacking.
De Becker also pointed out, where Kerik did not, that the National Enqurier's proposed blackmail contract with Bezos demanded that de Becker agree with the statement that the Enquirer had not relied on "any form of electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their news-gathering process," even though the possibility of hacking had never been discussed publicly. De Becker also found it curious that the Enquirer -- which normally protects the sources of its salacious information -- quickly made public its claim that Michael Sanchez, the brother of Lauren Sanchez, with whom Bezos was having an affair, was the source of the compromising photos and texts it was trying to blackmail Bezos over. Further, de Becker noted, the Saudi surveillance effort that led to the death of Khashoggi included hacking.
Kerik then complained:
Why, then, is Bezos pushing this baseless Saudi theory?
One reason is he may want to turn the public focus away from embarrassing marital issues and put the spotlight on the Saudis, who The Washington Post has sought to paint as the ultimate bad guy. (No matter that the Saudis have been America’s longtime allies since World War II.)
Given that Bezos himself wrote an article revealing those "embarrassing marital issues" and the blackmail attempt involving them, it seems clear that Bezos is beyond embarrassment on the issue.
Kerik then tried to frame the Bezos controversy as a possible "hoax":
So herein lies the problem for de Becker and Bezos, and what makes this case so complex for prosecutors reviewing the matter in the Southern District of New York.
If it is established that Bezos’s people conspired to create a Trump-Saudi-Enquirer hoax, it could be quite problematic if the prosecutors believe they were misled and provided a false narrative.
For their part, The Enquirer and its top brass have been raked over the coals for what Bezos characterized as blackmail and extortion. The SDNY will have plenty of questions about that too.
But before the public or the Southern District buys into claims of a Saudi connection, Bezos team must “put up or shut up” — provide hard evidence that proves their allegations and justifies a federal inquiry.
Kerik offered no evidence that a "hoax" is in play, and surely he knows that no detailed evidence will be made public until the SDNY makes a decision on prosecuting the case.