Trump urged postmaster general to double rates on Amazon

President Trump has reportedly urged the U.S. postmaster general to double shipping rates for Amazon.com and other companies amid months of his continued criticism that the online retailer is costing the Postal Service “billions” of dollars in revenue.

Trump has personally met with Postmaster General Megan Brennan multiple times since 2017 to petition her for a hike on rates for Amazon and other firms that ship packages, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing officials familiar with the conversations.

The president’s demands came despite counsel from close advisers and top Postal Service employees that Amazon, the largest shipper of packages through USPS, actually helps keep it afloat financially.

According to the Post, Brennan explained to Trump in their conversations that the Postal Service is bound by its contracts with retail companies, noting that to change them would require a review by the independent regulatory agency that oversees the USPS.

Trump signed an executive order last month to create a task force to look into the Postal Service’s “unsustainable financial path.”

USPS has given Amazon a shipping discount due to the volume of packages it ships, but has not released details on its agreement with the retailer. Analysts have estimated that the company uses the Postal Service for about 40 percent of its shipping.

Trump also reportedly met with different groups of senior advisers including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn on the service’s financial dealings and whether Amazon was in fact costing the USPS “massive amounts of money,” as he once claimed in a tweet.

The president has frequently taken aim at The Washington Post, which Amazon owner Jeff Bezos purchased in 2013.

[The Hill]

HHS official shared post saying ‘forefathers’ would have ‘hung’ Obama, Clinton for treason

A political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services shared an image in 2017 that said “our forefathers would have hung” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason, a CNN KFile review has found.

Ximena Barreto is a far-right political pundit who in December 2017 joined the Trump administration as deputy director of communications at the department.

Barreto was placed on leave by the department on Monday after the liberal watchdog Media Matters reported that Barreto called Islam “a cult” and pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which alleged that Clinton was part of a child-sex ring based in part at a Washington, DC, pizza restaurant.

A subsequent KFile review of her Twitter account “RepublicanChick” found that Barreto also repeatedly used the hashtag #BanIslam and twice shared conspiracy theories about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. Barreto also shared a conspiracy theory that French President Emmanuel Macron was controlled by the Rothschild family and that Clinton and Obama were controlled by investor and Democratic mega-donor George Soros. Both the Rothschilds and Soros are frequent targets of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

A department spokesperson did not comment on tweets unearthed by KFile and reiterated to CNN that Barreto has been placed on administrative leave while they look into the matter.

Prior to joining HHS, Barreto was a far-right political pundit and Trump-supporting blogger.
She co-hosted a YouTube show called “The Right View by Deplorable Latinas.” A now-removed biography on her personal website said she “has worked as a political activist, and worked hundreds of hours with Republican candidates (sic) campaigns, including John McCain, Ted Cruz and President Donald Trump.”

Here’s what Barreto tweeted:

On Barack Obama

In May of 2017, Barreto retweeted an imagesaying the “our forefathers would have hung” Clinton and Obama for treason.
In August of 2017 Barreto retweeted an image of a statue of Obama labeling him “a Muslim terrorist.”
In January of 2017, Barreto wrote in a tweetthat Obama was a “pansy and a traitor.”

On Seth Rich

In October 2016, Barreto implied Rich was killed by either Clinton or the Democratic National Committee, using the hashtags #KilledByTheDNC #HillaryBodyCount #ClintonBodyBags
In May, 2017, Barreto retweeted a video about Rich, saying that “the media blackout and the silence from Washington on Seth Rich should scare the hell out of you.”

On Islam

On five separate occasions found by KFile’s review, Barreto tweeted the hashtag “#BanIslam” in asserting that those participating in the Women’s March had turned their back on “real oppression.”
She also tweeted “#DeportLSarsour,” referring to Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour.
In other tweets, she called for a boycott of Amazon for an ad that showed a Christian priest and Muslim imam together, saying that “an Imam would never sit with a priest FYI”.

On Hillary Clinton, Democrats and Emmanuel Macron

In a tweet in August of 2016, Barreto falsely claimed that Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s family had terrorist ties.
In April of 2017, Barreto spread a conspiracy theory that Macron was controlled by the Rothschilds and that Clinton and Obama were controlled by Soros.
“Macron is just a political puppet of the Rothschilds, just like Obama and Hillary are Soros Puppets!” she wrote.

[CNN]

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]

 

Advisers Gave Trump PowerPoint Presentation Debunking His Claims on Amazon. It Didn’t Work

Over the past week or so, President Donald Trump has ramped up his attacks against tech giant Amazon, claiming the company isn’t paying any taxes while accusing them of taking advantage of the Postal Service and costing the government billions of dollars.

In the wake of Trump’s personal war against Amazon, fact checkers and journalists have noted that the president’s claims are either unsupported or outright false. The thing is, Trump’s advisers tried early on to keep him from tossing out his Amazon falsehoods. It just didn’t take.

Per the Wall Street Journal, White House officials kept hearing Trump grouse about Amazon during his first months in office. Therefore, they decided to set up some briefings so he would speak factually and knowledgeably about the company in public.

Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser, and other officials gave PowerPoint presentations and briefing papers they believed debunked his concerns that Amazon was dodging taxes and exploiting the U.S. Postal Service.It made little difference. Mr. Trump persisted in attacks that ran counter to the material they had showed him.

A source also told WSJ that the presentation wasn’t “the narrative he wants,” adding that Trump “didn’t find it persuasive because he keeps saying it’s untrue.”

[Mediaite]

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]

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 keeps up Twitter assault on Amazon, this time criticizing its U.S. Postal Service contract

President Trump on Monday doubled down on his criticism of the U.S. Postal Service’s arrangement with Amazon, saying he would change how much the country’s largest online retailer pays in shipping fees.

“Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon,” he tweeted Monday morning. “THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed.”

The tweet marked the third time since Thursday Trump has lashed out against Amazon. The retailer’s stock was down 4.9 percent in morning trading.

Last week he attacked the retailer for paying “little or no taxes to state & local governments” and said the company uses “our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.)”

Two days later, he asserted the USPS loses an average of $1.50 on each Amazon delivery. “This Post Office *scam* must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” he tweeted.

Amazon collects local taxes in the 45 states that require it, although third-party sellers may have other arrangements.

Trump also incorrectly said The Washington Post is a lobbyist for the retailer. (The Post is personally owned by Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon. The newspaper operates independently of Amazon.)

Amazon and USPS declined to comment on Trump’s tweet Monday morning.

The Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent federal agency, oversees the Postal Service’s pricing structure and reviews its contract with Amazon annually.

Amazon does receive a discount from the Postal Service, though the details of that arrangement have not been disclosed. An independent regulator reviews the contract every year to make sure it continues to be profitable for USPS.

Although Monday’s tweet was the first time the president implied he would try to change how much USPS charges Amazon, he has railed against its pricing structure in the past. In December, Trump attacked the company’s arrangement with the U.S. Postal Service and said the agency should raise the shipping rates it charges Amazon.

“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer?” he tweeted. “Should be charging MUCH MORE!”

A fast rise in parcel deliveries — many of them from Amazon — has helped offset some of the Postal Service’s losses in recent years. In 2017, USPS delivered 589 million more packages than it did a year earlier, amounting to an 11.4 percent growth in volume and $2.1 billion increase in revenue. (Mail volume, meanwhile, decreased by about 5 billion pieces, or 3.6 percent.) Overall, the Postal Service reported a $2.7 billion loss last year on revenue of $69.6 billion.

[Washington Post]

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 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 renews call for internet tax, making a veiled threat against Amazon

President Donald Trump repeated an earlier call for an internet tax, in a thinly veiled shot at Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post.

“The internet — they’re going to have to start paying sales tax because it’s very unfair what’s happening to our retailers all over the country that are put out of business,” Trump said Wednesday.

Trump also reiterated concerns about Amazon’s effect on the U.S. Postal Service as it struggles to keep up with online orders.

The comments mirror tweets from the president in December that named the e-commerce giant.

“There’s always been a fear for players like an Amazon or a Google that something like this could actually get through,” Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, told CNBC. “We believe it’s more noise than a real threat.”

There’s been speculation that the president’s shots at Amazon are aimed at Bezos, whose newspaper has published stories critical of the president.

Amazon already collects sales tax on products it sells directly to consumers, but has faced challenges from states over its policy of allowing third-party vendors to charge varying levels of sales tax.

In June South Carolina filed a complaint against the online retailer, and Amazon agreed in November to take on additional third-party tax burden in its home state of Washington.
The issue has garnered more attention as Amazon continues to take a bigger share of overall retail sales. Amazon celebrated its “biggest holiday” shopping season at the end of last year.

There is an underlying movement among traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to more heavily tax Amazon, Ives said, so the discussion is “something you have to keep an eye on.”

But the likelihood that an internet tax would pass is small, he said.
“Listen they’ve [Amazon] significantly changed the retail landscape across the world,” Ives said. “I think it’s more of the same where they’re getting in the crosshairs.”
Trump spoke before media and members of the administration Wednesday evening during the signing of the Interdict Act, which seeks to reduce drug smuggling through the purchase of opioid sensors.
Amazon did not immediately return a CNBC request for comment.

[CNBC]

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