Michael Isikoff: Trump’s Attacks on Amazon and Jeff Bezos a ‘Mirror Image’ of the Way Putin Runs Russia

‘Companies in favor, oligarchs in favor get the benefits’

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it is clear by now, Trump does not let the facts get in the way of a fight. So, let’s talk about this new fight he’s picking with Amazon and the rest of the week’s developments with Jill Colvin, a White House reporter for “The Associated Press,” and Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News and the author of the number one best-selling book in the country, “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump”. We’ll get to that in a little bit.

Michael, first on this Amazon versus Trump issue. Let’s put on screen some of the other examples of President Trump, using his power of the office to pressure companies or criticize companies that he’s at odds with. Do you see a connection here between the Amazon attacks and some of the other companies he’s been battling with as president? 

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Absolutely. And it goes beyond that as well. I see it as a piece of his directives to the Justice Department about who they should investigate, his attacks on Andrew McCabe, the deputy FBI director who was fired at the Justice Department. 

I mean, this is presidential pique, government by presidential pique, rather than by policy. And, you know, the problem is that it undermines whatever legitimate policy goals the president might have in mind because it comes off as him just attacking his enemies. 

Look, on the Amazon issue, there may well be legitimate issues to debate about what the pricing policy should be for Amazon’s shipment, its impact on retail stores or whether it’s paying its full fair share of sales taxes. All these are legitimate questions, but when it comes off as Trump’s going after Jeff Bezos because he doesn’t like what “The Washington Post” is writing about him, it undermines whatever he’s trying to accomplish. 

And it — you know, it’s really — it’s a mirror image in a way of the way Vladimir Putin runs Russia. Companies in favor, oligarchs in favor get the benefits. Those who aren’t are imprisoned or prosecuted. And you could — it’s the flip side of that, and it’s quite serious. 

STELTER: Well, look, the Bezos/”Post” connection, this Amazon issue, it calls to mind AT&T and Time Warner. Time Warner, of course, CNN’s parent company. 

ISIKOFF: Sure.

STELTER: Time Warner is in the process of being bought by AT&T, but the Justice Department under President Trump is suing to block the deal. We’ve been through about a week of the trial so far. This is going to go on for several more weeks. Then we’ll see what the judge decides. 

The question all along has been whether President Trump’s disdain for CNN is somehow a factor in the government’s lawsuit. And I think that’s the issue you’re raising, Michael, these government issues. 

ISIKOFF: It casts a cloud.

STELTER: I’m sorry, what’s that? [11:05:00] ISIKOFF: Yes, I’m saying it casts a cloud over what the government is trying to do. As in the McCabe example where, you know, you had an I.G. report that had findings about Andrew McCabe. We haven’t seen it yet. But the fact that the president himself was attacking on Twitter the deputy director of the FBI raised questions about whether the decision to fire him was done for a legitimate reason, based on the I.G. findings, or was a result of pressure from the president. 

So, any step similarly with Jeff Bezos and Amazon, any step the board of governors of the Postal Service or Congress seeks to — does in response, will have the same cloud cast over it. Are they doing it because of legitimate policy reasons the president is making, or is it because he’s going after a political enemy and they’re bowing to pressure from the White House?

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