Trump orders review of Postal Service amid Amazon accusations

An executive order demands that a task force evaluate the post office's operations and finances.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
2 min read

President Trump has repeatedly accused Amazon of not paying its fair share for postage.

Declan McCullagh/CNET

President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered an evaluation of the US Postal Service's finances, after weeks of accusing Amazon of not paying its fair share of postage.

In an executive order, Trump created a task force, chaired by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to evaluate the Postal Service's finances and operations. The order directs the task force to issue a report outlining proposed changes within 120 days.

"The USPS is on an unstable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout," the president said in his order, which said the service has incurred $65 billion of cumulative losses and must make changes so that it operates under "a sustainable business model."

The order doesn't mention the online retail giant by name, but in recent weeks, Trump has made repeated accusations that Amazon is taking advantage of its delivery partnership with the US Postal Service, with taxpayers shouldering the costs. Earlier this month, in comments to the press, Trump said, "Amazon is going to have to pay much more money to the Post Office. There's no doubt about that."

The e-commerce giant is one of the USPS's biggest single customers, prompting the agency to offer specialized services. The USPS instituted Sunday deliveries of Amazon packages in 2013, for example, despite its longtime practice of suspending mail deliveries on that day of the week.

But Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos , have been frequent targets of Trump's attacks, with the president widely seen as targeting the company because Bezos owns The Washington Post, which has reported critically on the president.

The executive order comes as some perceive Amazon as a big benefactor for the Postal Service, bringing it more business at a time when letter deliveries are slumping. Others say the Postal Service isn't charging Amazon and other shippers the full amount it should for parcel deliveries.

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act in 2006 made it illegal for the Postal Service to ship parcels at below cost. Additionally, Postal Service corporate partnerships are reviewed annually by the Postal Regulatory Commission, an oversight agency.

Despite those protections against below-market rates, a widely circulated Citigroup analysis from last year claimed that the Postal Service wasn't considering billions of dollars in benefits payments in its accounting. Citigroup argued that the Postal Service needed to raise its prices or else taxpayers will have to cover the additional costs.

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon declined to comment.

CNET's Bex Fox Rubin contributed to this report.

'Alexa, be more human': Inside Amazon's effort to make its voice assistant smarter, chattier and more like you.

Rebooting the Reef: CNET dives deep into how tech can help save Australia's Great Barrier Reef.