Trump Buddy Sold Big On Steel-Related Holdings Prior To Tariff Tweets
Back in the bailing-out-Donald's-casino days...Credit: CNN
March 2, 2018

Could all of this steel tariff talk be in part a way to skim the market on short sales?

Or did Trump tip off his buddy Carl Icahn to sell just in time to save a bundle?

In an administration with a law-abiding ethical people, these questions wouldn't come up. But this is Trump. Think Progress reports:

Billionaire investor and longtime Trump confidant Carl Icahn dumped $31.3 million of stock in a company heavily dependent on steel last week, just days before Trump announced plans to impose steep tariffs on steel imports.

In a little-noticed SEC filing submitted on February 22, 2018, Icahn disclosed that he systematically sold off nearly 1 million shares of Manitowoc Company Inc. Manitowoc is a “is a leading global manufacturer of cranes and lifting solutions” and, therefore, heavily dependent on steel to make its products.

The filing came just seven days before a White House event where Trump announced his intention of imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel imports.

This is nothing new. Carl Icahn had to "step down" from his "position" as "adviser to the President" when it became clear that his "relationship" with Trump was benefitting his own pocket in a massive way. Bloomberg wrote in March of 2017 (worth reading the whole thing)

Icahn makes no apologies for this. Sipping a glass of pineapple juice in his 47th floor corner office on March 9, the 81-year-old investor says he’s surprised by all the controversy, which he sees as a fake issue generated by well-funded opponents. “I have a right to talk to the president like any other citizen,” he says. “Especially if I think he respects me, why the hell shouldn’t I call him?. … It may sound corny to you, but I think doing certain things helps the country a lot. And yeah, it helps me. I’m not apologizing for that.”

Icahn would seem to inhabit an extraordinary position of privilege in the Trump administration. Except that he’s not technically a part of the administration. As a special adviser, he’s not a government employee and receives no compensation. That means he doesn’t have to relinquish any of his vast financial holdings, nor is he subject to federal ethics rules that typically apply to people who work for the president.

Every part of Icahn’s portfolio is touched by government regulation. There’s American International Group Inc., subject to strict federal oversight under a 2010 law Trump says he’ll revise; Federal-Mogul Holdings Corp., an auto parts maker with plants in China and Mexico; and Herbalife Ltd., a multilevel marketer facing a May deadline to comply with a Federal Trade Commission settlement. Says Slocum: “This is the purest definition of a conflict of interest that you can get.”

Carl Icahn has the right to talk to Trump like every other citizen with billions of dollars invested and insider information from the White House?

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse wrote an op-ed for CNN last month also noting Icahn's conflicts of interest and long history with Trump:

Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, was brought in as "special adviser" to the President in order to cut regulations. On the campaign trail, the President bragged of his relationship with Icahn, calling him one of "the great businessmen of the world." Icahn, who bought one of Trump's Atlantic City casinos out of bankruptcy and contributed the maximum he legally could to the Trump campaign, said he would slash "crazy regulations" hindering American businesses.

It turned out Icahn had one particular regulation in mind. Skirting conflict of interest rules that apply to formally appointed executive branch officials, he undertook to change the Environmental Protection Agency's "renewable fuel standard" that required oil refiners to blend corn-based ethanol into gasoline. Changing the rule would save one of Icahn's companies, CVR Energy, hundreds of millions of dollars.

Icahn's insider campaign provoked intense scrutiny from Congress, in a steady stream of oversight requests, and from the media, in a steady stream of reporting. Icahn resigned from his role; the EPA put Icahn's proposed rule change on ice, and federal investigators have since opened a probe into his time advising the White House. Icahn calls the concern about his breathtaking conflicts of interest "absurd."

This is Banana Republicanism.

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