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Legal Expert Thinks Trump’s War On Amazon May Be Illegal (TWEETS)

Trump’s attacks on Amazon may not just be wrong–they might violate securities law.

Donald Trump is one of the few people in the world who can literally send a stock cratering in 280 characters or less. We’ve seen this happening in real time in the last two weeks, during Trump’s Twitter war with Amazon.

Since Thursday, Trump has taken to Twitter numerous times to rail against the e-commerce giant. His main beef? Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, which has been one of Trump’s most vociferous critics.

The feud reached a fever pitch on Monday, when Trump accused Amazon of stiffing the Post Office and not paying its fair share of taxes.

That tweet sent Amazon’s stock into free fall. Specifically, it dropped by 5.2 percent, erasing $36 billion of its market value. And it dragged the rest of the market down with it; the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 459 points, while Nasdaq was off three percent.

Investors feared that Trump’s railing against Amazon could mean that he’s considering more regulation. Indeed, according to Ian Winer of Wedbush Securities, when a president attacks a company in this way, it “runs counter to the concept of a ‘free’ market.”

But Richard Painter, the former chief ethics counsel to George W. Bush, thinks Trump’s attacks on Amazon aren’t just unseemly. They might be illegal.

Painter may be one of the few sane people left in the Republican Party. He hasn’t let his party ties blind him to Trump’s blatant violations of the Emoluments Clause, which bars any government official from accepting gifts from a foreign country. For the last two years, Painter has led the effort to turn the hot lights on Trump’s decision to continue allowing proceeds from his real estate empire’s dealings with foreign governments and state-owned companies to flow into his bank account. He and a number of other legal experts from both parties believe that Trump could not honestly take the oath of office as a result, and therefore committed an impeachable offense from the moment he was sworn in.

But Painter believes that Trump stepped on another legal land mine with his ranting about Amazon.

Where’s Painter coming from? Well, a number of officials have explained to Trump that Amazon pays the same discounted rate as other bulk shippers. Even though the Post Office is losing money overall, it’s making a killing on e-commerce. Indeed, the e-commerce boom has led the Post Office to increase Sunday delivery in some markets. Moreover, it charges sales tax in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

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On this basis, Politifact rated Trump’s railings about Amazon as “False,” while The Post’s Fact Checker gave them three Pinocchios. But Painter thinks this isn’t just another garden-variety case of alternative facting. He thinks Trump could potentially be hauled into court for making statements about Amazon that he knows or should have known aren’t true.

If Painter intended this as a warning to Trump, the warning went unheeded. On Tuesday, Trump unleashed another 280-character attack on Amazon.

At the time Trump fired off this tweet, Amazon had actually recovered 1.4 percent of what it lost on Monday. But within 11 minutes, Amazon was back in the red. While Amazon managed to recover enough for an overall gain of 1.4 percent, it has still lost $50 billion of its market value since Axios reported that the Donald had the company in his crosshairs.

That triggered another not-so-veiled warning from Painter.

It can be safely assumed that there are a lot of people who could theoretically have the financial wherewithal to withstand Trump’s tendency to simply run out the clock when he’s hauled into court.

Amazon hasn’t given us a lot of reason to root for it lately. But then again, we’re dealing with a president who thinks he can use the power of his office to bully his critics into submission. That can’t be allowed to stand. And if there’s a way to legally hold him to account, hopefully someone has the guts to do so.

(featured image: photo art courtesy Ben Park, Vanity Fair)

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Written by Darrell Lucus

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.