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What is driving Trump attacks on Amazon? Is personal

Early in the president

Donald Trump

term, when White House officials heard him complain loudly

Amazon.com
Inc.

They organized private information sessions in the Oval Office to ensure that they would speak with knowledge about the company.

Gary Cohn,

his chief economic adviser and other officials gave PowerPoint presentations and informational documents that they thought dispelled his concerns that Amazon was evading taxes and exploiting the United States Postal Service.

It did not make much difference. Mr. Trump persisted in attacks that went against the material he had been shown.

"It's not the narrative he wants," said a person familiar with the White House briefing. "He clearly did not find it persuasive because he keeps saying it's not true."

In the last week, the president has turned what were sporadic and often private criticisms into a continuous avalanche of tweets against the company, which often cause stock market. fluctuations.

Fueling Mr. Trump's anger is not so much Amazon, the online giant that is renovating the retail industry, but the CEO of the company

Jeff Bezos,

who also owns The Washington Post, say people close to the White House.

Mr. Trump sees Bezos' hand in the newspaper coverage he does not like and is attacking Amazon as a proxy, said these people.

A Post spokeswoman, requested an answer, referred to quotes from the newspaper's leadership in a story published on Thursday. In that piece, editor

Frederick J. Ryan Jr.

He said that Mr. Bezos "has never proposed a story".

"Jeff has never intervened in a story, he never criticized a story, it is not directed or proposed editorials or endorsements," said Ryan.

Amazon declined to comment. But the company says it collects sales taxes on its own inventory in the 45 states that have this type of taxes and has voluntarily begun collecting taxes in some municipalities. Many small businesses that sell products on the Amazon site do not collect taxes on sales outside the states they are based on.

Still, the president intensified his attack on Thursday, tweeting about the company and telling reporters aboard an Air Force One flight to his home from West Virginia: "Amazon simply is not on equal terms. a huge lobbying effort, in addition to having the Washington Post, which is, as far as I'm concerned, another lobbyist. "

"Look at the sales tax situation," Mr. Trump added, suggesting that the company does not pay its fair share of them.

Mr. More recent statements by Trump led White House aides to come back with him this week to tell him that his criticism of Amazon may be "losing its meaning," said a White House official. In response, Mr. Trump has been "digging," said this person.

In previous reports, Trump advisors have told him how Amazon pays taxes, said the person familiar with the matter.

The president's advisers also presented financial data showing that the Postal Service's financial problems are being caused by forces other than Amazon: in particular, that people send far fewer letters.

The Postal Service has suffered a decrease in revenue from the first class mail delivery of approximately 7% in the fiscal year ending in November. Meanwhile, it has had strong growth in the delivery of packages, the category it would represent for Amazon and many other online retailers, with an increase in revenues of 11% during the same fiscal year through November.

Mr. Trump's contempt for the media is not limited to the Post Office. He also routinely denounces the New York Times, CNN and other media as "false news."

The wave of the president's most recent tweets against Amazon has coincided with the publication of Washington Post stories he does not like.

Over the past week, Mr. Trump has privately complained about two private stories, White House aides and others said: a March 30 article documenting problems at a White House office that examines people appointed for political reasons and another the next day that showed Mr. Trump acting more independently of the chief of staff

John Kelly

and other "moderating forces".

During a long weekend at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump complained to his staff about the latest story, said a White House official. The president said he did not understand how he is feeling more comfortable at work.

The president pointed to Amazon the day before the first of the two stories appeared, and then sent five more antiazonense tweets until Thursday, In private, Mr. Trump has "talked about the fact that the Washington Post it is the exclusive property of Jeff Bezos and that he [Mr. Bezos] is using that same entity to assume the position, president and administration, "said a person who speaks with Trump regularly.

Another person close to the White House said: "Every time there was a bad story [Amazon] it appeared."

Once Mr. Trump identifies an enemy, he attacks, his confidants said.

Asked about the president and Mr. Bezos,

Tom Barrack,

A longtime friend of Mr. Trump's, said: "The president's point of view is: You want to play with me in the sandbox, so better put on your helmet, pack a lunch and bring your flashlight & # 39; "

What is not clear is whether Mr. Trump will take action that would harm Amazon's commercial interests.

The company is now competing for a US defense contract. UU potentially valued at $ 10 billion to change mainframe computer services to the cloud.

The contract came up in conversation at a private dinner at the White House with

Peter Thiel,

the multi-billion dollar investor, who brought the co-CEO of Oracle Corp.

Safra Catz,

an Amazon rival, said a White House official.

Before dinner on Tuesday, attendees privately reported Mr. Trump and told him that Ms. Catz might want to talk to him about the defense contract. He was advised not to participate, but rather to tell him that the contract depended on the Department of Defense.

Mrs. Catz raised the issue and said that the Pentagon process seemed to favor Amazon. Mr. Trump responded that the contract did not depend on him, but would be granted by officials of the department, said the White House official.

However, in his conversation with reporters aboard the plane, Trump suggested some form of action against Amazon can be taken but did not specify what it would address.

"We'll see what happens," he said. "The post office is not doing well with Amazon … The playing field has to be leveled."

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com

] Corrections and amplifications
The CEO of Microsoft is called Satya Nadella. In an earlier version of this article, a legend of a photo incorrectly gave its name as Satya Narayan. (April 6, 2018)

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