Donald Trump has complained about reporting from the Washington Post, and now the Treasury Department is targeting its owner.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed in congressional testimony that he and the department are “looking at” business practices by Amazon, after Donald Trump criticized its owner on Twitter.
Trump lashed out at Amazon because its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, also owns the Washington Post, which has reported on and exposed multiple Trump scandals and misbehavior.
Based on no evidence at all, Trump alleged that the Post is “being used as a weapon” to prevent “politicians from looking into Amazon no-tax monopoly.”
Is Fake News Washington Post being used as a lobbyist weapon against Congress to keep Politicians from looking into Amazon no-tax monopoly?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
Mnuchin told a Senate appropriations subcommittee that the issue of fair taxation on internet sales is “an issue we’ve been looking at very carefully within the administration, and we expect to come out with a position shortly.”
Amazon in fact collects sales tax in 46 states and Washington, D.C.
Mnuchin’s comments come as Trump is engaged in an unprecedented public pressure campaign against his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Trump has criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, as well as for Sessions’ failure to use his department to target and investigate Hillary Clinton.
Mnuchin may want to avoid a similar fate, and is preemptively shaking down one of Trump’s perceived enemies.
The First Amendment and the oversight function of the free press has been on Trump’s target list since he was campaigning for the presidency. He has repeatedly spoken about suing the media for critical stories, while decrying reporting that exposes his administration’s duplicity or incompetence as “fake news.”
The Post has uncovered several stories about Trump, including his lies about donating to charity, his decision to reveal classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador, and the fake Time magazine cover with his image that he has hanging up in his golf clubs.
Trump doesn’t want the Washington Post investigating him, and his Treasury secretary is engaging in dubious actions with a private business in a manner that would appease Trump’s petulant complaints. It’s more evidence of this administration’s authoritarian impulses, and another warning to America.