Trump Says He’ll Take ‘Very Serious Look’ at Amazon’s Business

President Donald Trump said he will take a “very serious look” at Amazon.com Inc. and what he said is an “uneven playing field” the retailer enjoys against competitors.

“I’m going to study it and take a look,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. “We’re going to take a very serious look at that.”

Trump aides said earlier in the week that the White House wasn’t preparing punitive measures toward Amazon, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the president’s comments indicated a potential shift.

Amazon was little changed in extended trading, dropping 0.1 percent to $1,451.75 at 5:43 p.m. in New York. While Trump’s broadsides against the company battered the stock last week and into Monday, investors have shrugged off his latest assaults and sent the shares up each of the past three days.

Trump has fired off a barrage of criticism against Amazon and chief executive officer Jeff Bezos in Twitter postings since last week, sinking the Seattle-based Internet retailer’s market value by as much as $55 billion at one point. Trump has argued the company receives favorable treatment on taxes and postal rates.

“You look at the sales tax situation which is going to be taken up I guess very soon, there’s going to be a decision from the Supreme Court,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “So we’ll see what happens. The post office is not doing well with Amazon that I can tell you.

“The playing field has to be level for everybody,” he said as he returned from a trip to West Virginia.

Amazon collects sales tax in every state that has one. But Amazon’s policies don’t apply to third-party merchants selling goods through its website, and many of those transactions remain untaxed. Such sales make up about half of the company’s volume. Amazon has said it’s up to the sellers to collect any taxes and many don’t.

The Trump administration has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to let state and local governments collect billions of dollars in sales taxes from online retailers. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments next month centering on a South Dakota law that calls for collecting sales taxes from large internet retailers even if they don’t have brick-and-mortar stores in the state. A ruling is expected by late June.

While its contract with Amazon is confidential, the Postal Service has argued that its e-commerce services benefit the organization and its mail customers. It is legally prohibited from charging shippers less than its delivery costs. Further, taxpayers don’t directly support the Postal Service’s operations.

Amazon regularly uses the Postal Service to complete what’s called the “last mile” of delivery, with letter carriers dropping off packages at some 150 million residences and businesses daily. The company has a network of 35 “sort centers” where customer packages are sorted by zip code, stacked on pallets and delivered to post offices for the final leg of delivery.

The company remains exposed to government action on other fronts.

The Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission could open antitrust or consumer protection investigations. The company is also competing for a multi-billion-dollar contract to provide cloud computing services to the Pentagon.

Safra Catz, the chief executive of Oracle Corp., one of Amazon’s rivals for the Defense Department contract, criticized the bidding process in a private dinner with Trump Tuesday, complaining that it favored Amazon, people familiar with the plans said.

Trump heard her out and said he wants the contract competition to be fair, but made no indication he’d interfere in the bidding, the people said. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Trump isn’t interfering in the contract decision.

[Bloomberg]

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince reportedly bragged about having Jared Kushner ‘in his pocket’ after being told classified information meant for Trump

Jared Kushner reportedly discussed classified information obtained from the President’s Daily Brief with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who bragged that he had Kushner “in his pocket,” according to a report by The Intercept.

Presidential son-in-law-turned-advisor Jared Kushner reportedly had a penchant for reading President Donald Trump’s daily brief, a highly sensitive intelligence update that is only meant to be seen by the president and his top advisers, before being stripped of his top security clearance and access to the daily brief in February.

Before losing his security access, Kushner was particularly interested about information on the Middle East, the Intercept reported, citing several former White House and US government officials.

When Salman became the new heir to the throne in June last year, the daily brief reportedly began to focus on shifting political allegiances in Saudi Arabia, and named several Saudi royals who were opposed to the crown prince’s position.

Kushner then made a surprise trip to Riyadh in October, reportedly staying up until 4 a.m. with Salman to discuss strategy.

Several sources told the Intercept that following the meeting, Salman told close confidants that Kushner had spilled the names of the Saudi royals “disloyal” to the prince, although Kushner’s camp strongly denies the claim.

Salman reportedly told the United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed about the meeting with Kushner, bragging that he had Kushner “in his pocket,” sources told the Intercept.

Just a week after the meeting Salman began his large-scale corruption crackdown, which saw 200 officials arrested. According to the report, Saudi officials mentioned in the daily briefs were among those detained.

The “two princes” have forged a close bond

Kushner has built a close relationship with the Salman, setting the stage for close communication between the the US and Saudi Arabia.

Kushner and Salman began their friendship at a lunch meeting at the White House last year, according to the Washington Post, citing sources familiar with their relationship. The two have been tasked with leading negotiations on Israel-Palestine peace, and have consulted frequently in private phone calls over several months, according to the Post.

A source close to Kushner told CNN that Kushner’s relationship with the Saudi prince is more personal and close than other professional relationships between the US and world leaders, and that Kushner seeks to use that bond to deepen ties between the countries.

Kushner is said to be playing an important role in Salman’s visit to the US this week.

Kushner attended official meetings between the president and the Saudi delegation, and is scheduled in for several dinners with Salman and other US and Saudi officials.

[Business Insider]

Trump: ‘I’d love to see a shutdown’ over immigration

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he supports a government shutdown if Democrats won’t agree to tighten immigration laws, undercutting ongoing bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The comment, which came during a White House meeting on the violent MS-13 gang, was not well received in the room. Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican who represents a district with thousands of federal workers, confronted Trump about the remark and urged him to avoid another government shutdown.

“If we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown,” Trump said of the nation’s immigration laws. “We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.”

He added: “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety, and unrelated but still related, they don’t want to take care of our military, then shut it down. We’ll go with another shutdown.”

The government will run out of funding Thursday if negotiators can’t strike a deal.
Several Republican aides working on the budget deal have voiced concern to CNN that the President’s comments about a shutdown may cause things to fall apart.
“Holding my breath right now,” texted one senior Republican working on the deal.

The issue is whether House Democrats — who have for months been outright resistant to signing onto a budget agreement without a resolution on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — will now back away from the breakthrough deal negotiators are approaching.

The President’s remarks happened at the same time Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, in separate news conferences, touted the progress on the talks and made clear a deal was close. The talks also separate the issue from immigration altogether — long the GOP goal — making the President’s comments somewhat confusing.

“Things are in a good place, but also fragile,” another GOP aide said, noting all of the moving parts in the talks. “We could do without anything inflammatory for a couple of days.”

Speaking shortly after Trump during the White House meeting, Comstock said she would not back such a move and urged Trump to avoid it.

“We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” she said. “I think both sides have learned that a government shutdown is bad.”

At a later event, Comstock described her comments with Trump as “a very civil discussion” and that she doesn’t “support government shutdowns.

When asked to clarify his remarks at the end of the roundtable, Trump told reporters again that he would shut down the government over immigration.

“I would shut it down over this issue. I can’t speak for everybody at the table but I will tell you, I would shut it down over this issue,” he said, adding that if the US doesn’t straighten out its borders “we don’t have a country. Without borders we don’t have a country.”
Rep. Pete King, R-New York, who attended the White House meeting, told reporters afterward that he doesn’t think the government will shutdown over immigration policy, despite Trump’s comments.

“I don’t see that in the offing,” King said.

Schumer responded to Trump’s shutdown threat, saying it “speaks for itself.”

“We had one Trump shutdown, nobody wants another, maybe except him,” Schumer said.
Trump oversaw a multi-day government shutdown last month over immigration reform.

Though Trump opposed that government shutdown, he has previously said the United States could use a government work stoppage.

“Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess,” he tweeted in May.

[CNN]

Trump just said the US sold Norway F-52s — but no such aircraft exists

President Donald Trump said the US had sold Norway F-52 fighter jets during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Wednesday.

But no such aircraft exists. The president may have misspoke because the US has sold Norway 52 F-35s.

Oslo received the first three last November.

Trump is getting roasted on Twitter for his gaffe

[Business Insider]

Kushner Used Private Email For White House Work

President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has used a private email account to communicate with other officials in the administration about White House business, according to Politico. 

Kushner has used the email to talk about various topics — including media planning and event coverage — with figures such as former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former chief strategist Stephen Bannon and President Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.

Kushner set up the account during the transition period after he campaigned for Trump, who frequently attacked former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her user of a private email server while she was secretary of State.

“Mr. Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell told Politico in a statement.

“Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account. These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”

The report comes as special counsel Robert Mueller continues to probe alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the presidential campaign.

Kushner has been seen as a person of interest by Mueller.

The Washington Post reported in May that Kushner and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. had discussed setting up a secret communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.

It was reported in June that Kushner was present at a Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016 with a Russian lawyer that was organized by Donald Trump Jr. after he was told the lawyer could provide damaging information on Clinton.

[The Hill]

Finland Says No Fighter Deal with Boeing After Trump’s Ad-Lib Comments

President Sauli Niinisto on Tuesday denied that Finland was buying new fighter jets from American planemaker Boeing (BA.N), following remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Finland is looking to replace its ageing fleet of 62 F/A-18 Hornet jets with multirole fighter aircraft in a procurement estimated at 7-10 billion euros by 2025.

“One of the things that is happening is you’re purchasing large amounts of our great F-18 aircraft from Boeing and it’s one of the great planes, the great fighter jets,” Trump said on Monday at a news conference with his Finnish counterpart in the White House.

Niinisto, who was standing next to Trump, looked surprised but did not follow up on the comment. He later denied the deal with Boeing on his Twitter account and on Tuesday in Washington.

“It seems that on the sale side, past decisions and hopes about future decisions have mixed … The purchase is just starting, and that is very clear here,” Niinisto told Finnish reporters.

Helsinki is expected to request that European and U.S. planemakers provide quotations for new jets in 2018, with a final decision made in the early 2020s.

A government working group has listed possible candidates as Saab’s (SAABb.ST) Jas Gripen, Dassault Aviation’s (AVMD.PA) Rafale, Boeing’s Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s (LMT.N) F-35 and the Eurofighter, made by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

[Reuters]

Trump Vows North Korea Threat Will Be Met With ‘Fire and Fury’

Amid sharply escalating tensions with North Korea, President Donald Trump on Tuesday promised “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if the country continues to threaten the United States.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” the president warned, responding to a reporter’s question at his Bedminster Golf Club, where Trump has spent the last several days. “They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Trump’s remarks came just hours after reports that North Korea had developed a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on a missile.

The president also said North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has been “very threatening” recently.

U.S. officials believe North Korea now has the capability to put a nuclear weapon on a missile, NBC News reported on Tuesday, confirming a report in The Washington Post. According to a U.S. official briefed on the assessment, the advance does not mean North Korea has a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can survive reentry accurately.

Last month, North Korea proved its missile capabilities have reached a point where U.S. cities are within “target range.”

The Dow dropped Tuesday, in response to the president’s warning, thus ending a 10-day streak of nine record closes in a row.

In dealing with North Korea, the Trump administration has relied heavily on China to intervene with Pyongyang and convince Kim to stop his nuclear program, but outreach and action have stalled in recent months.

Top White House advisor Kellyanne Conway called Trump’s remarks on North Korea “strong and obvious,” declining to comment further on the strategy while briefing reporters in New Jersey on the administration’s efforts against the opioid crisis.

The White House continues to insist that all options are on the table in dealing with North Korea.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., criticized Trump’s comments as further isolating North Korea — a strategy she says has not worked to advance American goals in the region.

“The United States must quickly engage North Korea in a high-level dialogue without any preconditions,” Feinstein said in a statement, stating “in my view, diplomacy is the only sound path forward.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement: “We need to be firm and deliberate with North Korea, but reckless rhetoric is not a strategy to keep America safe.”

And Arizona Sen. John McCain said he took “exception to the President’s comments because you’ve gotta be sure you can do what you say you can do.”

Ret. Navy Admiral James Stavridis, in an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday, called the escalation with North Korea the “biggest crisis” that this Trump administration has yet to face on the global stage.

Trump has previously vowed to confront North Korea “very strongly” for testing missile launches, telling reporters during a trip last month to Warsaw, Poland that “I have some pretty severe things that we’re thinking about,” in terms of potential responses.

While Trump has said he does not “draw red lines” — a criticism he often levels of former President Barack Obama’s stated threshold in Syria — Trump’s comments Tuesday seem to draw a line at continued threatening rhetoric from North Korea.

[NBC News]

Trump Retweets Fox News Story Containing Classified Info

President Donald Trump’s retweet of a Fox News story claiming US satellites detected North Korea moving anti-cruise ship missiles to a patrol boat is raising eyebrows on Tuesday after US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley indicated that the information in the report is classified and was leaked.

“I can’t talk about anything that’s classified and if that’s in the newspaper that’s a shame,” Haley said Tuesday on “Fox and Friends” when asked about the story that cites two anonymous sources.

Pushed on whether the information was leaked, Haley said “it’s one of those things I don’t know what’s going on. I will tell you it’s incredibly dangerous when things get out into the press like that.”

But just a few hours before Haley’s appearance on Fox, Trump retweeted a post from the Fox News morning show promoting the story said to contain classified information.

CNN has not independently verified the Fox News report and the White House has not responded to a request for comment.

Trump’s motive for retweeting the Fox News story remains unclear but the decision to promote a report that — according to the US ambassador to the United Nations — contains classified information leaked to the press by anonymous sources comes just days after the President praised Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ plan to combat that very practice in the name of national security.

“After many years of LEAKS going on in Washington, it is great to see the A.G. taking action!” Trump tweeted. “For National Security, the tougher the better!” Trump tweeted over the weekend.

Tuesday’s retweet also coincided with the release of a series of new polls that not only call Trump’s Twitter habits into question but also reveal major concerns around the President’s trustworthiness and ability to effectively manage the standoff with North Korea.

According to a new CBS News poll only a third of those surveyed having confidence in Trump’s ability to handle the situation with North Korea.

A new CNN poll shows that a majority (52%) of Americans say Trump’s tweets are not an effective way for him to share his views on important issues, and 72% say they do not send the right message to other world leaders.

Further, 62% overall say that Trump’s statements and actions since taking office have made them less confident in his ability to be president.

In May, Trump was criticized after The Washington Post reported that he shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the US in a White House meeting.

Despite statements from top administration officials that called the report “false,” two former officials knowledgeable of the situation confirmed to CNN at the time that the main points of the Post story were accurate.

[CNN]

Trump Mindlessly Tweets Fox & Friends Report That Blames Him for Obamacare Premium Hikes

President Donald Trump promoted a Fox News article that suggests he is responsible for Obamacare premium hikes.

At 4:40 a.m. ET on Thursday, Trump shared a tweet from his favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, that warned Obamacare premiums would be rising.

But the article concluded by suggesting that the president was at fault for the premium hikes because he had threatened to withhold payments from insurers.

The Journal reported that insurers are concerned about Trump’s threat to halt payments to the industry that in turn help bring down costs, as well as whether Republicans will continue to enforce the individual mandate to buy insurance.

According to the Journal, one insurer in Montana linked the bulk of its proposed 23 percent increase to those two concerns.

[Raw Story]

Intel Officials Fret Trump Doesn’t Understand Info Given to Him During 30-Minute Security Briefings

It’s now well-known that President Donald Trump allegedly revealed classified information to Russian officials during an unorthodox Oval Office meeting a few weeks ago. The underlying message behind that story, according to a new Washington Post report, is about how the president consumes the intelligence that comes across his desk.

According to the Post, Trump’s intelligence briefings “often run past their scheduled time, stretching for 30 or 45 minutes, prompting Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to pop into the Oval Office to cut off the discussion: ‘Mr. President, we’ve got people backing up outside.’”

It’s not just the length, but also the content of the Trump’s briefings that appear to be cause for concern. Prior reports reveal that the president prefers the use of “visual aides” like infographics and photos in his briefings, and this latest Post report reinforces that.

“As they huddle around the desk, Trump likes to pore over visuals — maps, charts, pictures and videos, as well as “killer graphics,” as CIA Director Mike Pompeo phrased it,” Post reporters Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker wrote. This tendency towards visuals is, according to their sources, due to Trump’s career in real estate that required him to regularly view blueprints.

Despite efforts by White House staff to make intelligence more legible for the president, “there are signs that the president may not be retaining all the intelligence he is presented, fully absorbing its nuance, or respecting the sensitivities of the information and how it was gathered,” Parker and Rucker wrote.

The president’s seeming mishandling of the classified intelligence he gave to the Russians, according to the Post, provides an uneasy “portrait of Trump as a consumer of the nation’s secrets”.

During his presidential transition, Trump infamously said he only needed weekly briefings, and reports from the transition noted that he would often refuse briefings presented to him.

“Pompeo and [Director of National Intelligence Dan] Coats are doing their best to give him the most accurate daily briefing, but my sense is in the rank-and-file, they are very worried about how do you deal with him and about sharing with him sensitive material,” former Assistant CIA Director Mark Lowenthal told the Post. “This is the result of his behavior.”

[Raw Story]

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