Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers called Donald Trump’s attacks on Amazon.com Inc. a “jihad” akin to what happened in Benito Mussolini’s Italy and other totalitarian states.
While saying it’s fine to give antitrust scrutiny to a large company, Summers suggested that Trump is singling out Amazon because Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post newspaper, whose coverage has drawn the president’s ire.
“What is not the job of the president of the United States is to go on a jihad against a company because he does not like the activities of a newspaper that is privately owned by its CEO,” Summers, who served Democratic presidents, said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”
“It is something that should be deeply concerning to business people everywhere,” said Summers. He added that Trump is shifting the U.S. approach to business from the rule of law to the “rule of deals” with ad-hoc attacks on Amazon and other companies.
Trump has criticized Amazon in tweets during the past two weeks, accusing the online retail giant of dodging taxes and cheating the U.S. Postal Service. He’s also accused Amazon of using the Washington Post as its “chief lobbyist.”
‘Made Up Garbage’
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that “the Washington Post is far more fiction than fact. Story after story is made up garbage.”
Summers compared those attacks to what happened in Italy under the dictator Mussolini. It shouldn’t be the case in a U.S. democracy that “one company can be singled out at one moment, and another company can be singled out at another moment,” he said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that Trump’s criticisms of Amazon have nothing to do with the Washington Post’s coverage. Larry Kudlow, head of the White House National Economic Council, said Trump just wants “a level playing field” collecting taxes from Internet retailers and that Amazon, whose shares have fallen 13 percent since peaking on March 13 — isn’t at risk.
“It’s a strong company,” Kudlow said. “It’s going to remain a strong company.”