Trump tests presidential limits by threat to GM
PRESIDENT Donald Trump tested the limits of his presidential authority and political muscle as he threatened to cut off all federal subsidies to General Motors because of its planned massive cutbacks in the US.
Trump unloaded on Twitter on Tuesday, a day after GM announced it would shutter five plants and slash 14,000 jobs in North America. Many of the job cuts would affect the Midwest, the politically crucial region where the president promised a manufacturing rebirth. It was the latest example of the president’s willingness to attempt to meddle in the affairs of private companies and to threaten the use of government power to try to force their business decisions.
“Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland. Nothing being closed in Mexico & China,” Trump tweeted. “The US saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!”
He added that his administration was “looking at cutting all GM subsidies, including for electric cars.”
Trump’s tweets came shortly after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the White House’s reaction to the automaker’s announcement was “a tremendous amount of disappointment, maybe even spilling over into anger.” Kudlow, who met with Barra on Monday, said Trump felt betrayed by GM.
“Look, we made this deal, we’ve worked with you along the way, we’ve done other things with mileage standards, for example, and other related regulations,” Kudlow said, referencing the recently negotiated US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. “We’ve done this to help you and I think his disappointment is it seems like they kind of turned their back on him.”
The White House rebuke appears to fly in the face of long-held Republican opposition to picking winners and losers in the marketplace. A day earlier, Trump issued a vague threat to GM to preserve a key plant in the presidential bellwether state of Ohio, where the company has marked its Lordstown plant for closure. “That’s Ohio, and you better get back in there soon,” he said.
It’s not clear precisely what action against GM might be taken, or when, and there are questions about whether the president has the authority to act without congressional approval.