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a tangled web

Report: National Enquirer publisher asked DOJ if it should register as a foreign agent for Saudis

American Media Inc., the National Enquirer's parent company, had so many contacts with Saudi Arabia over the last several years that it asked the Justice Department in 2018 if it should register as a foreign agent, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, anyone who represents the interests of a foreign power in a "political or quasi-political capacity" must let the government know about this relationship. AMI sought money from Saudi investors to fund acquisitions, wanting to purchase Time, Fortune, Money, and Sports Illustrated, and it produced 200,000 copies of a 97-page glossy magazine titled The New Kingdom, which praised Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Because of these contacts, AMI approached the Justice Department, asking whether it should register as a foreign agent, the Journal reports.

The Justice Department responded that it determined the company was not "an agent of a foreign principal" under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the Journal says. A person familiar with the matter told the newspaper that the New Kingdom issue fawning over Prince Mohammed was "done to kiss his ass when he came to visit in the hopes he'd invest in the company and it didn't work. There was nothing more to it than that."

Last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused AMI of trying to blackmail him, using intimate photos and texts as leverage to get him to drop an investigation into how the National Enquirer accessed earlier texts he sent during an extramarital affair. Bezos said that the "Saudi angle" of the investigation "seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve." For more on the connections between AMI and Saudi Arabia, visit The Wall Street Journal.