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Investigators For Jeff Bezos Say National Enquirer Alleged Extortion Plot Was Politically Motivated

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – CBS News has learned investigators hired by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have now turned over their findings to law enforcement.

They are trying to find out how the National Enquirer obtained private photos and messages from Bezos.

Last week, the billionaire claimed the Enquirer had explicit images and was trying to blackmail him.

That came weeks after the tabloid revealed Bezos, who graduated from Miami's Palmetto High School, was having an affair with former TV host Lauren Sanchez.   Errol Barnett has the story from New York.

On Sunday, Elkan Abramowitz, the attorney for the parent company for National Enquirer stopped short of revealing the source of the leaks.

"I'm not going to answer who the source was," he said. "It was somebody close to both Bezos, and Ms. Sanchez."

But a source close to Jeff Bezos' private investigators tells CBS News they have conducted multiple interviews with Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos' girlfriend.

They say Sanchez, a Donald Trump supporter, discussed the matter with Roger Stone and Carter Page, two of Trump's staunchest defenders.

Contacted by CBS News, a person close to Michael Sanchez dismissed allegations of his involvement as "sloppy leaks and crazy conservative conspiracy theories."

CBS News law enforcement analyst Paul Viollis thinks someone Lauren Sanchez confided in was the likely leaker.

"If I was conducting the investigation I would be starting with Miss Sanchez," said Viollis. "The highest probability of risk here -- where this leak came from -- would be Sanchez. Whether it was her brother, whether it was a friend, whether it was anybody."

In emails released by Bezos last week, Enquirer officials purportedly claim to have "a naked selfie" and other lewd photos of Bezos.

They offered not to publish the pictures if the Amazon CEO dropped his investigation.

"I hope common sense can prevail -- and quickly," one email said.

Abramowitz says the tabloid wanted Bezos to stop falsely claiming its coverage of his affair was politically motivated.

He also denied the explicit photos were part of blackmail plot.

"It was part of a legitimate negotiation," said Abramowitz. "Each side had something that they wanted."

Bezos and the newspaper he owns, The Washington Post, are frequent targets of President Donald Trump. The National Enquirer is published by another trump ally, David Pecker.

On Friday, the white house distanced the president from the controversy.

"We're not going to get into a conversation about something between Jeff Bezos and a tabloid magazine," said White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.

Bezos' blackmail claims are now being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York, who last year granted the National Enquirer immunity in a separate investigation into hush money payments for Trump's alleged affairs.

They could revoke that immunity if they determine the enquirer broke the law.

A lawyer for the Enquirer's parent company says it is the real victim, of Bezos's "defamatory" claims.

But Bezos and his team of investigators say it was all part of an extortion plot and are zeroing in on Sanchez's brother as a possible leaker...even though he has denied doing so.

They believe political motivation was a likely factor.

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