Trump adviser, Bezos escalate feud
President Trump’s top trade adviser and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday escalated their feud over allegations that Bezos has declined to sit down with the White House to discuss the online retail giant’s struggles to combat online counterfeits.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro in an interview with The Hill on Thursday morning accused Bezos of pawning him off on “flacks and hacks” as he sought a personal meeting to talk about curbing the spread of counterfeits on e-commerce platforms like Amazon.
“Bezos is the one guy on high who can quickly fix this problem at Amazon, the market leader,” Navarro said. “So this meeting between Bezos and the White House … it’s not trivial, it can be pivotal in the fight to protect American consumers and workers.”
Several hours later, Bezos, in a thinly-veiled swipe at Navarro, posed a question to his 1.4 million Instagram followers: “Let’s say you’re at a big cocktail party and someone you don’t know comes up to you while you’re talking to your dad and girlfriend and asks for a meeting. Let’s say this person is the kind of person who actually uses the word ‘minions’ to describe the people who work for you.”
“How do you respond?” Bezos, who has been on the receiving end of attacks from Trump himself for years, wrote. “A) Yes, I’ll definitely meet with you; B) No, I won’t meet with you; C) Tell you what. Call so and so and they’ll work something out; D) Quietly resolve to become a shut-in.”
Navarro said he has been asking to meet with Bezos for months as he leads the Trump administration’s escalating campaign to crack down on the hundreds of billions of dollars of fakes spreading online each year. He says, when he approached Bezos at a public event last month, Bezos agreed to a meeting and told him get in touch with another Amazon executive — Jay Carney — to set it up.
Carney, the former White House spokesman for President Obama, did call Navarro several days later, according to Navarro. But Carney did not arrange a sit-down with Bezos himself — instead, Carney offered meetings with vice president-level Amazon officials.
A source familiar with the exchange told The Hill that it was a “miscommunication,” and Bezos left the exchange with the impression that he’d told Navarro to get in touch with Carney.
Navarro pushed back on that account of events and asked, “How can you trust Amazon when Jeff Bezos won’t own up to a conversation we obviously had?”
The unusual catfight between a top Trump adviser and one of the country’s most powerful tech executives emerges against a background of animosity between Trump and Bezos, a simmering battle that Amazon has alleged cost them a $10 billion contract with the Pentagon.
Trump for years has railed against Bezos over his ownership of The Washington Post, a newspaper that Trump has accused of being biased against him. And in an unprecedented move, Amazon sued the Pentagon last year over allegations that Trump intervened to keep a lucrative cloud-computing contract away from the company over his personal disdain for Bezos, a “perceived political rival.”
Amazon’s lawsuit against the Pentagon is ongoing.
Navarro brushed off any connection between his frustration with Bezos and the president’s vendetta: “This is not about that. Period. Full stop.”
He derided Bezos’s Instagram post as a “wonderfully banal passive aggressive post from the would-be author of ‘Zen and the Art of Counterfeit Trafficking.'”
“Simply meeting with a White House representative to discuss a very serious issue would have be so much more constructive,” he said.
Amazon said in a statement on Wednesday that it plans to make executives available to meet with Navarro “as often as necessary.” But Amazon had not gotten in touch with Navarro personally as of Thursday morning, he said.