After actor Sean Penn's interview of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was published online via Rolling Stone Saturday, reports said that authorities appear to be interested in investigating Penn's meeting with the prison escapee, who was on the run at the time of their tete-a-tete.
It was learned that the "Mystic River" star had spent seven hours with Guzman in October, three months after his escape, at a jungle clearing after traveling a long way for the rendezvous.
"The interviews were held in a jungle clearing atop a mountain at an undisclosed location in Mexico," The New York Times noted. "Surrounded by more than 100 cartel troops, and wearing a silk shirt and pressed black jeans, Mr. Guzmán sat down to dinner with Mr. Penn and Kate del Castillo, a Mexican actress who once played a drug kingpin in the soap opera 'La Reina del Sur.'"
"I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world," Guzman declared to Penn in the Rolling Stone piece. "I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats."
This statement apparently riled up the White House as a senior official called the boast "maddening."
"We see a heroin epidemic, opioid addiction epidemic in this country," Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff, was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying. "We're going to stay on top of this with our Mexican counterparts until we get that back in the box. But El Chapo is behind bars and that's where he should stay."
On Penn's involvement in the interview, McDonough said that he would "let somebody else sort out what Sean Penn did and didn't do."
Days after Guzman's interview, Mexican authorities raided his hiding spot, but El Chapo managed to escape, reportedly continuing to conduct the interview from a distance via video and BlackBerry Messenger.
However, the fugitive was eventually captured, with Mexican officials saying that part of it was because "he had been planning a movie about his life, and had contacted actors and producers, which had helped the authorities to track him down," as noted by the New York Times.
Will Penn be enmeshed in legal trouble in the wake of the revelation that he had met the fugitive while he was on the run?
"Not only unlikely, he will not face legal repercussions," said CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, who pointed out that it is partly because the actor is a U.S. citizen.
Further, Penn met El Chapo as a journalist, who typically "had no duty or obligation to inform authorities of his interview, even though the interview was with a person wanted by the law."
Also, it appears that Penn's effort may have aided in Guzman's capture, although he may not be aware of that and had taken precautions not to be tracked.