Trump’s surprise delivery for Amazon
With help from Brian Faler and Nancy Scola
TRUMP’S SURPRISE DELIVERY FOR AMAZON — It’s been less than two weeks since President Donald Trump’s last jab at Amazon, when he suggested The Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, serves as a lobbyist for the ecommerce giant. But it appears one of Trump’s crowning achievements in office will actually serve to boost his nemesis. According to a report out today by Pro Tax’s Brian Faler, the GOP tax code rewrite “will give many of the online retailer’s package deliverers a big tax advantage over the government’s own letter carriers.”
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— Priming the pump: “People who sign up for a new Amazon program to help them set up their own businesses delivering the company’s packages will likely be eligible for a new tax break allowing them to skip paying taxes on 20 percent of their income,” Brian reports. “But federal employees delivering packages for the post office – including, as Trump has complained, ones ordered from Amazon – are out of luck. That’s because the tax provision is reserved for so-called pass-through businesses like the independent contractors Amazon wants to hire. People who are ordinary employees are not eligible for the break.”
— Pooling benefits: Amazon isn’t the only tech company that stands to gain from the aforementioned wrinkle in the GOP tax law. “Uber drivers will qualify for the break but cab drivers who work for someone else will not,” Brian reports.
— Bezos on the brain: As our friends at Morning Money reported earlier this week, the review of the U.S. Postal Service Trump ordered is set to reach the president sometime this week. A source tells POLITICO that the initial interagency report did not take direct aim at Amazon, but it’s not clear what the final language will look like.
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WHITE HOUSE TALKS TECH ROLE ON MIDTERM MISINFORMATION — Days after Facebook announced it had discovered a coordinated midterm meddling campaign on its platform, an array of Trump administration officials stressed the role of social media in thwarting interference efforts ahead of the 2018 elections. “We have to have a public-private partnership in this particular threat,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a White House press briefing, during which officials discussed election security efforts. “We’re spending so much of our effort trying to engage with the social media and technology companies because there is a very important role for them to play in terms of monitoring and in effect policing their own platforms.”
— A group effort: Unlike in 2016, Wray said, the federal government and tech companies have a “robust” plan of action, including active collaboration and an exchange of information. “We’re sharing with them actionable intelligence in a way that wasn’t happening before, we understand better what they need, they’re sharing information back with us based on what they find. … So I do think progress is being made, we gotta keep getting better at it, we gotta stay on the balls of our feet, but I think that’s what we’re saying.”
— Kremlin connection? Administration officials were not shy about pointing the finger at Russia for efforts to influence elections. But they also said foreign interference has not risen to the same level as two years ago. “We are not yet seeing the same kind of efforts to specifically target election infrastructure” like voter registration databases, as occurred in 2016, Wray said. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats concurred, adding that so far there has not been “the kind of robust campaign that we assessed in the 2016 election.”
— Deep deep fakes? While Facebook’s suspension of 32 “inauthentic” pages drew praise from officials, some advocacy groups say it inadvertently swept up their legitimate protests. One group member told the Washington Post that Facebook “delegitimized” one of their events, a counterprotest against white supremacists. And Fight for the Future this week condemned the action as “arbitrary mass censorship.” “Calls for more censorship, whether they come from the left or right, pose a dangerous threat to legitimate freedom of speech,” said Evan Greer, the group’s deputy director.
— If it seems like the privacy push is moving at an expedited pace, there’s a reason for that. In a word, Privacy Shield. (OK, two words.) The transatlantic data deal is up for review in October, and “we want to show the Europeans that privacy does matter here on the other side of the Atlantic, and we’re truly working in a constructive manner to get that done,” says the source. Moreover, with European regulators and legislators starting to pitch jurisdictions around the world on the merits of GDPR-style regulation, “this administration doesn’t want to concede leadership on privacy,” says the source. “They want to show that, ‘Hey, America still matters.’”
THAT’S TRILLION WITH A ‘T’ — It finally happened. Apple on Thursday became the first publicly traded company to cross the $1 trillion valuation threshold. (That’s 12 zeroes, for those wondering.) The development comes on the heels of a week where the company breezed past a series of potential hurdles: It weathered a tough couple weeks for tech on Wall Street, sailed through its earnings report by exceeding financial expectations and beat back fears it would be bogged down by Trump’s trade war with Beijing. So can anything slow down Apple’s seemingly endless rise? We’ll be closely monitoring to see if Trump’s threats on further tariff action affects the tech behemoth.
TECH TWEET DU JOUR — Businessweek’s 1996 cover on “The Fall of an American Icon,” Apple, has not aged well. But at least they have a good sense of humor about it.