Jeff Bezos owns a newspaper that does not comport itself as the president’s personal Pravda. He has also, repeatedly, expressed a desire to shoot Donald Trump into outer space.
Given these facts, it would be perfectly normal for Trump to harbor a grudge against the Amazon CEO. But it’s decidedly less normal for the president of the United States to implicitly threaten Bezos’s company with higher taxes, as retaliation for an accurate — but unflattering — story in the outlet he owns.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post revealed that Trump displays a fake Time magazine cover starring himself in at least four of his golf properties. That report has since been confirmed by Time.
Trump’s claim that Amazon pays no “internet taxes,” by contrast, is basically “fake news.”
While it’s true that the online retailer built its mammoth market share in no small part via tax avoidance, Amazon began collecting sales tax nationwide on April 1 of this year.
That said, third-party vendors can still sell products on Amazon without being subjected to a sales tax. A number of states are considering measures to force Amazon (and other digital retailers) to collect sales taxes from such sellers, or else require vendors to report their own sales.
The Republican Party has opposed such proposals. In fact, just three months ago, former Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint published an op-ed assailing internet sales taxes as “regulation without representation.”
And the argument against such a measure isn’t wholly baseless: Tracking exactly where items are bought or sold — and how to work out the tax implications of returned products — would be onerous for many small retailers.
It’s unlikely, then, that Trump will actually be able to make good on his taxation threat, so long as his party controls Congress. But the president could still, theoretically, punish Bezos for funding adversarial journalism by other means: Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods may require approval from Trump-appointed federal regulators.