Why Donald Trump is 'obsessed with Amazon'

Two freshly delivered Amazon boxes are seen on a counter in Golden, Colorado August 27, 2014. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)
Two freshly delivered Amazon boxes are seen on a counter in Golden, Colorado August 27, 2014.

When it comes to the political world's interest in tech giants, many of the key players in D.C. have been focused heavily on Facebook, especially in the wake of the controversy surrounding Cambridge Analytica. Axios reports today, however, that Donald Trump's interests are elsewhere.

Capitol Hill wants Facebook's blood, but President Trump isn't interested. Instead, the tech behemoth Trump wants to go after is Amazon, according to five sources who've discussed it with him. "He's obsessed with Amazon," a source said. "Obsessed."Trump has talked about changing Amazon's tax treatment because he's worried about mom-and-pop retailers being put out of business.... His real estate buddies tell him -- and he agrees -- that Amazon is killing shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retailers.

The piece added, "The president would love to clip CEO Jeff Bezos' wings. But he doesn't have a plan to make that happen."

There's certainly room for a spirited conversation about the online retailer and its influence in the marketplace, but I think New York's Jon Chait is correct when he argues that for Trump, Amazon is simply "the outlet for his hatred of the Washington Post."

In theory, Trump might have developed an economic theory that Amazon is inappropriately benefitting from public policy, and have drawn critical conclusions about the journalism at the Post, and it is merely a coincidence that the same person, Jeff Bezos, owns both businesses. In practice, Trump makes no pretense of obscuring any connection between the two. When he lashes out at the Post's coverage, he segues seamlessly to Amazon. Trump has done this over and over. [...]Whatever the merits of his case about Amazon, it has nothing to do with helping mom-and-pop shops and everything to do with his authoritarian desire to control the news media.

To a very real extent, this is exactly what Trump told us to expect before he was even elected.

Regular readers may recall our coverage from May 2016, when Trump was merely the presumptive Republican nominee, and he pushed a conspiracy theory with great enthusiasm about Jeff Bezos attacking him through the Post because he thought Trump would raise his company's taxes. Or something. It was a little hard to understand.

And while the Republican's conspiracy theory didn't really make any sense, Trump nevertheless made clear at the time that he sees Amazon and the Washington Post as effectively the same thing, using the corporate brand names interchangeably. He almost seemed to threaten Bezos during a Fox News interview at the time.

"[H]e's got a huge antitrust problem because he's controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they're doing," Trump argued. "And what they've done is, he bought this paper for practically nothing and he's using that as a tool for political power against me and against other people. And I'll tell you what: we can't let him get away with it."

About a month later, in June 2016, Trump's campaign said it was "hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post." The accompanying press statement added, "The fact is, The Washington Post is being used by the owners of Amazon as their political lobbyist."

There's never been any evidence to bolster such a claim, but it's against this backdrop that we're now confronted with a new report about the president's "obsession" with the company.

Maybe Trump will just continue to stew silently over this, and he won't use the levers of government power as tools of retribution against his perceived enemies. Given the president's track record, however, that seems unlikely.