President Donald Trump is looking for ways to knock Internet retail giant Amazon down a few pegs, with sources saying he's "obsessed" with the company owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos and wants to "go after" it.
An Axios report on Wednesday revealing Trump's plot to put strict new regulations on the company may have already had the intended effect, with Amazon stock plunging by more than US$53 billion ($73.4b) in value.
Bezos takes a personal hit of more than US$8.5b from the market dip for the e-commerce behemoth, according to the Daily Mail.
The White House at an afternoon news conference said there's "no specific policies or actions" that would apply to Amazon's business model that it's currently considering.
But Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also noted that Trump is "always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses' and his interest in pursuing an Internet sales tax 'is no different."
After the White House press briefing, at which Sanders was repeatedly asked about Amazon, the companies stock began to bounce back.
Axios drove the market down earlier in the day with a report based on the word of five sources, including one who said that Trump was pondering ways to "go after" Amazon.
"He's obsessed with Amazon," a source said told the news website. "Obsessed."
Trump's desire to further regulate Amazon has been inflamed by his wealthy friends' complaints that lax Internet commerce rules are killing their businesses, Axios reported.
The president also believes that Amazon's thriving business model is hurting mom and pop stores that are owned by people who voted for him.
A source told Axios that Trump has also blamed Amazon for losses suffered by the U.S. Post Office.
"The whole post office thing, that's very much a perception he has," the source said. "It's been explained to him in multiple meetings that his perception is inaccurate and that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon."
Still, Trump is said to be actively seeking to come after Amazon using anti-trust or competition law, another source told Axios.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the House of Representatives' tax-writing committee in February that the administration "feels strongly" that Internet sales should be taxed.
At a July appearance before the U.S. Senate where he was asked about the Internet sales tax, Mnuchin singled out Amazon.
"I am encouraged that Amazon is now charging tax, I believe, on their own sales but not the marketplace," he said. "I'm not sure I understand the consistency on that, but I respect the states' ability that there's an awful lot of money that's not being collected."
Amazon's stock share fell by as much as 7.4 per cent on Wednesday, Reuters said, after the damaging Axios report ran. That's more than US$53b in losses for the company in one day.
Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post, which Trump has labeled "fake news" because of the stories it has done on him that he says are false representations.
A June 28, 2017 tweet dubbed the two companies - which have totally separate leadership structures - the "AmazonWashingtonPost" and described the newspaper as the "guardian" of the retail division and the reason that Amazon does not have to pay an Internet sales tax.
"Which they should," he stated.
An August 16, 2017 tweet claimed 'Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers.
"Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt - many jobs being lost!" he said.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump made similar assaults on The Post, Amazon and Bezos, who attended a meeting last June for the tech industry at the White House.