Trump orders Postal Service review after blasting Amazon deal

After accusing Amazon for months of not paying its fair share of postage, President Trump has ordered a review of the US Postal Service’s finances via an executive order issued late Thursday night. The order calls for a task force to evaluate the operations and finances of the USPS. The order does not mention Amazon by name, but it seems clear that Trump is trying to back his claim that the USPS is losing “many billions of dollars a year” due to the financial arrangement with its biggest shipper of packages, or about $1.50 for every Amazon package it delivers.

Trump may very well be correct regarding the numbers, although his rage seems misplaced. Experts, and even Trump’s own advisers, have said that the enormous volume of packages shipped by Amazon have helped keep the Postal Service afloat. Rather, the long, slow decline in junk and first-class mail are the reasons for the USPS’s mounting financial losses. Trump’s executive order acknowledges this.

“A number of factors, including the steep decline in First-Class Mail volume, coupled with legal mandates that compel the USPS to incur substantial and inflexible costs, have resulted in a structural deficit,” the president says in the order. “The U.S.P.S. is on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout.”

It’s unclear how quickly the task force will begin its review, but it has 120 days to respond to the president with a summary of its findings and recommendations. Trump created a similar commission last year to support his claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election — a claim thoroughly debunked by election experts from both parties. The commission was dissolved in January.

Trump often screams “FAKE NEWS!” on Twitter after The Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, publishes incriminating stories about Trump or his administration. Last week Trump calledThe Post “Amazon’s ‘chief lobbyist,’” a claim he’s fond of repeating. And during his presidential campaign, Trump saidthat Amazon had a “huge anti-trust problem” and “is getting away with murder, tax-wise.” It all makes you wonder what Trump’s real angle is.

[The Verge]

 

Trump’s push to redo $1.3T spending bill he signed sparks GOP revolt

A regretful President Donald Trump wants to roll back spending in a massive omnibus bill he signed into law, but Republicans who helped craft the legislation are in open revolt.

“My attitude is, your word is your bond,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said, in his first public comments on the Trump plan.

Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) is among more than a half-dozen appropriators who have voiced skepticism about the Trump administration’s proposal to cancel billions in spending. Nearly all said they feared that it could erode the GOP’s bargaining power in future budget talks. Their objections represented another low point in an often-tense relationship between the cost-cutting White House and GOP members of Congress who write spending bills.

The skeptics included the newly appointed Senate Appropriations chief, Richard Shelby, who met with Trump on Wednesday.

“We need to look at what we agreed on with the other side and keep our word, keep our agreements,” the Alabama Republican told POLITICO just before his one-on-one with Trump.

He added that the Senate has had little appetite for the idea in the past: “Rescissions has never been a big thing over here.”

The White House is seeking to essentially take a scalpel to last month’s $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, scratching out any funding that Trump doesn’t personally back.

Budget experts have said a rescissions package of that scale would likely be unprecedented: One party’s leaders in Congress and the White House have never before unilaterally agreed to unravel a spending deal that has already been sealed.

“I think the whole rescission effort is unrealistic and dangerous,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a longtime appropriator, told reporters. “It’s hard enough to make a bargain around here. But you can’t break your word when you do. … You’d never have another deal ever.”

Multiple lawmakers, including Cole, said they don’t believe House GOP leaders are taking the idea seriously — despite Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s own involvement in the budget scheme. They think it’s really being pushed by Trump’s belt-tightening budget director, Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Most are doubtful that the cutbacks could even land a floor vote.

“It seems like this is just an exercise in appeasing the president and the Republican ‘no’ votes on the omnibus,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told reporters.

“We could have made the original budget framework smaller. I would have been fine with that,” Dent said. But he cautioned that going back on the agreement now, months later, would have a “chilling effect” on future deals.

Republicans, particularly in the House, have little desire to revisit the unpopular spending deal, H.R. 1625 (115), in an increasingly dire midterm campaign cycle. The package included huge boosts to domestic funding, which GOP leaders worked hard to sell to their own members in the name of securing more Pentagon funding.

Ultimately, 90 House Republicans backed the spending bill, in part because they were promised cover by the White House.

But Trump’s 180-degree reversal on that deal left the Republican lawmakers who backed the omnibus feeling spurned. Trump further infuriated members of his own party after he threatened to veto the bill and accused GOP leaders of choosing to “waste money” in the bill.

Those same Republican leaders have sharply disputed Trump’s claim that there was no close scrutiny of spending. “When you put together a $1.3 trillion bill, you look into all these accounts,” Frelinghuysen said in defense of the bill.

“You don’t throw your friends under the bus who did exactly what you wanted them to do,” Cole said, calling it a “hare-brained scheme.”

Just one appropriator out of nine polled by POLITICO this week expressed interest in a rescissions package.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who oversees Agriculture spending, said he was “absolutely” open to the idea.

“We’re all just getting back, we gotta sit around the table and talk about it, but I don’t dismiss the idea at all,” said Aderholt, who is in a tight race to take over as House Appropriations chairman next year.

No lawmaker has seen any details out of the White House or GOP leadership about which programs would be cut. The Trump administration would have until mid-June to submit its request, after which it would be up to the House Appropriations Committee to turn the package into legislative language.

That work would need to be done at the same time the Appropriations panels are knee-deep in drafting bills for fiscal 2019, which begins Sept. 30.

And with an already abbreviated House calendar this year, lawmakers say there’s hardly time or interest to jump back into the previous fiscal year.

“We’ll see how that comes together. I’m not quite sure how that’s going to happen, but we’ll see if it does,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) said.

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have accused the GOP of “buyer’s remorse” after the most recent spending deal. And Democrats are already cautioning that Republican efforts to walk back this year’s spending deal would be seen as an attempt to void the entire two-year budget agreement.

Without that agreement, which also delivered huge increases in defense spending, the Pentagon’s budget would actually shrink next year.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) said he won’t decide whether to support a rescissions package until he sees the details. But he added that Congress’ spending panels tend to take the blame for the nation’s mounting debt — even though nondefense discretionary spending accounts for just 15 cents out of every dollar spent by the government.

“At Appropriations, we’re the most visible and easy target,” he said.

[Politico]

Trump Blasts Washington Post Over ‘Phony’ Headline on China Trade War Story: ‘Amazon’s Chief Lobbyist’

Earlier this week, Vanity Fair‘s Gabriel Sherman reported, through a source, that President Donald Trump has been consumed of late by the following question:

“[H]ow can I fuck with [Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos]?”

Trump’s answer, apparently, is to go after Amazon — and the Bezos-owned Washington Post for good measure — on Twitter.

In a Thursday morning Tweet, Trump blasted the paper for its headline on a story about the escalating trade conflict with China.

“The Fake News Washington Post, Amazon’s ‘chief lobbyist,’ has another (of many) phony headlines, “Trump Defiant As China Adds Trade Penalties.” WRONG!” Trump wrote. “Should read, “Trump Defiant as U.S. Adds Trade Penalties, Will End Barriers And Massive I.P. Theft.” Typically bad reporting!”

Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron has sought to dispel Trump’s notion that Bezos controls the paper’s reporting.

“It’s completely made up,” Baron said this week, in an appearance on CBS This Morning. “There isn’t anybody here who is paid by Amazon. Not one penny.”

[Mediaite]

Trump: Dems ‘stand in our way’ on stronger border

President Trump on Wednesday called on Congress to take immediate action to strengthen border laws while accusing Democrats of standing in the way of legislation.

In a morning tweet, the president said current border laws are “very weak” and that “strong action” would be taken Wednesday.

his comes a day after the president said he wants to deploy U.S. troops to guard the southern border with Mexico until his proposed border wall is completed.

“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we are going to be guarding our border with the military,” Trump said Tuesday during a meeting with Baltic state leaders.

Trump has received increased pressure from his base to score a policy win on immigration after lawmakers did not address his plea for $25 billion in wall money in recent spending legislation.

The president instead got just $1.6 billion for border fortifications in a recent government funding bill, and most of that money cannot be used to build new portions of the wall.

Trump on Tuesday also cited a “caravan” of Central American migrants heading for the U.S. border, later saying he heard reports the caravan was broken up, crediting his threat to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico does not arrest more migrants.

“They did it because, frankly, I said you really have to do it,” the president said. “We’re going to have a relationship on NAFTA. We’re going to have to include security in NAFTA.”

The president has been attempting to renegotiate NAFTA terms with Mexico and Canada for months. He exempted the countries from his recent steel and aluminum tariffs and reportedly hopes to have an updated version of NAFTA to unveil during the Summit of the Americas later this month.

[The Hill]

Trump continues Amazon attacks, says it costs USPS ‘massive amounts’

President Trump is not backing down on his argument that Amazon financially hurts the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), tweeting on Tuesday that the mega-retailer costs USPS “massive amounts of money.”

“I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy. Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne [sic] by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!” Trump tweeted.

The president’s strike at Amazon on Tuesday follows a series of tweets in which he criticized the company’s shipping arrangements with USPS.

“Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon,” the president tweeted Monday. “THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country…not a level playing field!”

The USPS does give Amazon a shipping discount because of the volume of packages it ships and has a deal with the USPS to ship packages on Sundays, but details of the arrangement have not been made public.

The accusation that Amazon is hurting the USPS has been disputed, with some fact-checkers saying that while the Postal Service is having problems, it is not because of Amazon.

Amazon owner Jeff Bezos has long been a target of Trump.

Bezos also owns The Washington Post, and Trump on Saturday accused him of using the newspaper as a “lobbyist” for Amazon. He has also often accused the Post of being “fake news.”

The Post and Amazon are two separate businesses and operate independently of one another.

[The Hill]

Trump Slams His Own DOJ Over Response to Document Requests: ‘An Embarrassment To Our Country!’

President Donald Trump has his daggers out, getting this week off to a rollicking start.

Today’s targets: DACA, the Democrats, and yes, of course, the DOJ.

Trump is going after his own Justice Department once again in his crusade to turn the tides of public opinion in his favor.

The Commander in Chief this morning shot off a tweet slamming the DOJ and FBI for not giving Congress the “unredacted documents” they requested:

House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte recently subpoenaed the DOJ for documents regarding the Hillary Clinton investigation and potential FISA abuses.

[Mediaite]

Trump continues attacks on Amazon, Washington Post

President Donald Trump is continuing his attack against Amazon, accusing the company of scamming the US Postal Service.

“While we are on the subject, it is reported that the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon. That amounts to Billions of Dollars,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

“The Failing N.Y. Times reports that ‘the size of the company’s lobbying staff has ballooned,’ and that……does not include the Fake Washington Post, which is used as a ‘lobbyist’ and should so REGISTER,” the President wrote. “If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion.'”

He added, “This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now.”

Is it a ‘scam’?

The Postal Service is losing money, but its package delivery service is profitable, unlike its letter delivery.

The Postal Service is required by law to cover its costs for delivering competitive products, such as packages for Amazon, and the Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees the service, set the appropriate share of those costs at 5.5% a little more than a decade ago.

Since then, the service’s deliveries of those products have grown substantially, and the United Parcel Service argued in a submission to the commission in 2015 that a realistic appropriate share of costs for delivering packages should be about 24.6%.

A Citigroup analysis last year found that that difference would amount to about $1.46 per parcel, which might serve as the basis for Trump’s $1.50 figure. An op-ed penned in July by Josh Sandbulte in the Wall Street Journal cited that analysis in arguing the Postal Service’s estimate of costs for delivering packages should be revised. Sandbulte is co-president of Greenhaven Associates, a money management firm that owns FedEx common stock.

In response, US Postal Service executive Joseph Corbett wrote that the op-ed provided an “inaccurate and unfair account,” and that the Postal Regulatory Commission has determined each year that the service is covering its costs for package deliveries.

Corbett asserted the Postal Service’s financial insolvency is the result of its inability to overcome “systemic financial imbalances caused by legal and other constraints,” such as a price cap on revenue-producing products that doesn’t take changes in delivery volumes and costs into account.

The Postal Service’s biggest money problem is that it has billions in retirement obligations to its workers that it can’t afford.

So what does Amazon pay?

Amazon pays the US post office to deliver packages to customers’ doors, including on Sundays, and because Amazon ships so many packages though the post office, it’s charged at a lower rate than most customers, CNN has reported. But Amazon does not receive a special rate; it pays the rate that the post office charges other bulk shippers.

Neither Amazon nor the post office has disclosed the details of its agreement, but the Postal Service says the deal is mutually beneficial.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted another accusation about Amazon not paying “taxes to state & local governments” and “putting many thousands of retailers out of business.”

Amazon collects sales tax in every state that charges one and remits it to the states, which is nearly every state. Amazon also pays local property taxes on its distribution centers as well as on the Whole Foods stores it purchased last year.

Amazon maintains it helps small businesses in a tough retail climate, helping vendors reach a mass audience.

This isn’t the first time Trump has accused The Washington Post of being a lobbying arm of Amazon. While both companies are owned by Jeff Bezos, Amazon does not have a stake in The Washington Post.

[CNN]

Trump Praises Roseanne During Infrastructure Speech: ‘Look at Her Ratings!’

President Trump delivered a speech on infrastructure in Ohio today that touched upon a number of different topics including, yes, Roseanne‘s debut ratings.

The eponymous star revealed that the President called her to congratulate her on the huge ratings numbers.

And he brought up the ratings again today during his speech:

“Look at Roseanne! I called her yesterday! Look at her ratings! Look at her ratings! I got a call from Mark Burnett, he did The Apprentice, he’s a great guy. He said, ‘Donald, I called just to say hello, and to tell you: did you see Roseanne’s ratings?’ I said, ‘Mark, how big were they?’ They were unbelievable! Over 18 million people! And it was about us! They haven’t figured it out! The fake news hasn’t quite figured it out yet.”

[Mediaite]

Trump escalates attack on Amazon, slams it on taxes, shipping

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday blasted Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) with a list of complaints, a day after news website Axios reported that Trump wants to curb the mega retailer’s growing power using federal antitrust laws and led its shares to fall almost 5 percent.

“I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” Trump said in a post on Twitter early on Thursday.

Amazon founder and chairman, Jeff Bezos, also privately owns the Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize last year for its investigation of Trump’s donations to charities. The probe found that many of Trump’s philanthropic claims were exaggerated and often were not charitable donations.

Still, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah shot down the notion that Trump’s criticism was part of a personal grudge.

“A lot of people have made this, with respect to Amazon, about personalities and the CEO at Amazon – we’re talking about Jeff Bezos here,” he said on Thursday on the Fox News Channel. “It’s really about policy.”

Shah reiterated that Trump was not making specific policy changes.

“There are a number of proposals that have worked their ways through the House and the Senate or have been considered by the House and the Senate. He’d be supportive of such efforts,” he said.

Trump’s claims about Amazon’s state and local tax payments have been met with skepticism. While the company was once criticized for attempting to skirt state sales taxes, it currently has a reputation as a leader in collecting the levies, which can vary from state to state.

Legally pursuing Amazon could affect more than its share price, which was largely steady after Trump’s tweet. Amazon is currently in the process of establishing a $5 billion second headquarters which could bring 50,000 new jobs to the location it selects. In January, it winnowed the list of possible locations down to 20 metropolitan areas.

Apart from nationwide goods deliveries, Amazon’s services include video streaming, a digital home assistant known as Alexa, and an online payments program.

[Yahoo]

Reality

Trump was informed many times that the Postal Service actually makes money from Amazon, a lot, but he refuses to accept this information

Trump Threatens Joe Biden, Saying He ‘Would Go Down Fast and Hard’ if They Fought

President Trump threatened former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday, saying in a tweet that Mr. Biden “would go down fast and hard” if the two men ever physically fought. Mr. Trump was responding to Mr. Biden’s comments on Tuesday about how, if he was in high school, Mr. Biden would “beat the hell” out of Mr. Trump for disrespecting women.

Mr. Biden, speaking at a University of Miami rally to combat sexual assault, said, “A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,’ ” referring to an Access Hollywood audio recording in which Mr. Trump is heard boasting about kissing and groping women without their consent. Mr. Biden said when he was asked if he would like to debate Mr. Trump, he said, “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.”

The back-and-forth blustering between two men in their 70s comes a day after Mr. Trump criticized two of his predecessors, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, for not being able to improve relations with Russia. And Mr. Trump is facing revived sexual misconduct accusations after a New York state judge ruled that a defamation lawsuit from a woman who has said Mr. Trump made unwanted sexual advances could go forward.

Mr. Biden, who has been a longtime advocate for anti-sexual assault policies, has been on the road lately, campaigning for Democrats.

Earlier this month, he campaigned for a Democrat in western Pennsylvania who won a special congressional election in a district that had previously been considered Trump country. Mr. Trump campaigned for the Republican candidate who lost. Democrats see the loss as an indicator of a potential wave of Democratic wins in the upcoming midterm elections.

There has been talk of a possible 2020 presidential run, which could pit Mr. Biden, 75, directly against Mr. Trump, 71.

Mr. Biden considered running in 2016, but decided not to because of the death of his son. At the time, Mr. Trump said he thought Mr. Biden made the right choice for his family and that he would rather run against Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump has previously tweeted about Mr. Biden while he was vice president, commenting on Mr. Biden’s gaffes. In 2012, Mr. Trump said he felt sorry for Mr. Biden’s communications team.

[The New York Times]

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