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Trump’s Amazon Tweets, Explained

Trump’s anger towards Jeff Bezos has more to do with The Washington Post than the post office.

Photo: Nicholas Kamm / Getty Images

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This morning, just a day after sources reportedly said President Trump’s deep hatred for Amazon has him wanting to “clip CEO Jeff Bezos’ wings,” the President confirmed that his bad blood with Amazon is brewing.

The tweet, which has caused Amazon’s stock to tank, isn’t the first of its kind. In August, Trump also took a jab at the Seattle giant.

As a businessman and real estate mogul, Trump has a long list of reasons for hating Amazon. For starters, he’s correct in saying the company is completely gutting retail. Throughout its crusade to take over the world, Amazon has decimated categories like books and electronics, and it is now moving on to grocery stores and fashion. Wealthy friends of the president have told the Trump that Amazon is killing their businesses, according to Axios. And those in real estate, like Trump was himself, have also pointed out that Amazon is killing stores and malls.

According to Axios, Trump has “wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law,” and he’s definitely not the first. Last year, for example, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker told Recode he believes businesses like Amazon are “extremely dangerous people in positions right now that are going to do nothing but inflame the economic injustices we’re already seeing in our country, giving more power to corporate consolidation, to corporations as a whole, and less power to Americans.”

Trump also has a bone to pick with Amazon about its tax handlings (which is ironic, given that Trump famously replied to Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate that not paying federal income taxes made him “smart”). The e-commerce behemoth initially enjoyed an advantage over small businesses by taking advantage of legal loopholes that allowed them to avoid paying taxes. But as the New York Times reported over the summer, Trump’s argument is about five years old. These days, Amazon collects tax across the country, and in 2016 it paid $412 million worth of taxes. That’s not to say that Amazon is fully playing a fair game these days. As Time notes, for the most part, the e-commerce giant doesn’t always collect sales tax on items sold from third-party sellers on its Marketplace. Today, nearly half of all products customers buy on Amazon come from its Marketplace, which brings in about $132 billion in annual sales, according to e-commerce consultancy firm ChannelAdvisor.

Trump’s hate for Amazon also comes in part from his belief that its business has dire effects on the country’s postal service — although sources have apparently tried explaining to Trump “in multiple meetings that his perception is inaccurate.” (Although the Wall Street Journal reported in February that Amazon is planning to start a shipping company of its own, Amazon for now is actually fueling the postal service’s income, which has gone so far as to add Sunday deliveries because of the demand that Amazon created).

All of this beef aside, there’s an additional reason for Trump’s disdain for Amazon, and it has nothing to do with shopping: Bezos just so happens to own The Washington Post, a publication that has been dogged in its reporting on the president. It’s the publication that found Trump’s notorious Access Hollywood tape and discovered the fake Time cover that’s hung in at least five of Trump’s golf clubs. Bezos bought the paper in 2013, and Trump has not been shy about his distaste for it.

Trump, not one to let go of grudges, likely will always remember how Bezos joked about sending Trump to space.

The timing of Trump surfacing his disdain for Amazon is probably calculated: The company is on a quest to open a second headquarters in the US. As Reuters reported, plenty of cities and states courting Amazon were offering billions in tax breaks.