Trump's shortsighted war on CNN
It's no secret President Trump has no love for CNN. The president regularly lambasts the network as "fake news" and even shared a meme of a CNN reporter being hit by a Trump train. His supporters, for their part, seem to sympathize with Trump's hatred for CNN and other mainstream networks, heckling reporters at Trump events. But Trump's blind hatred for CNN may have an unintended consequence: It could cost him vital working-class support in the 2020 election.
Hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer's company, Elliott Management, last month announced it had acquired a $3.2 billion stake in AT&T. Trump heralded the announcement as "great news," and it's not hard to figure out why: CNN is owned by Warner Media, which is a subsidiary of AT&T. Trump hopes Singer, a longtime GOP mega-donor, will pressure Warner Media to "put a stop to all the Fake News" produced on CNN.
But the far more likely outcome is that Singer will force one of the nation's largest employers to lay off tens of thousands of workers, which could backfire badly on Trump.
Indeed, Singer and Elliott Management have a long history of slashing domestic jobs to boost stock prices through a practice known as "activist investing." With its $35 billion in resources, Elliott Management buys stock in companies, frequently becoming the largest shareholder, and then releases a letter publicly criticizing the company's CEO, forcing them to resign or sell. He has been implementing this kind of vulture-style capitalism for years. In 2016, he forced a merger between the hunting supply store Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops, which led to massive layoffs while he earned about a 72 percent profit on his investment. Other companies like eBay and the digital health-care giant Athenahealth experienced similar layoffs after Singer applied pressure through Elliott Management.
And this is exactly what could happen at AT&T. According to the Communications Workers of America Union (CWA), Singer wanted the telecommunications giant to sell off DirecTV and its landline business, and close its retail locations. If these changes are implemented, some 30,000 AT&T workers could lose their jobs or see their hours slashed. While AT&T announced this week it had reached a temporary truce with Singer that includes heavy stock buybacks and the addition of two new members to the board of directors, many speculate the two new board members will advocate for Singer's cost-cutting policies.
This style of capitalism is considered objectionable by the general public, and pushes people to embrace more socialist agendas.
Enter Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts senator and 2020 Democratic candidate smells an opportunity in the looming mass layoffs at AT&T. Warren, who is portraying herself in this presidential cycle as a hero of the working-class, has called on AT&T to reject Singer's demands, tweeting: "Less than two months ago, AT&T signed a @BizRoundtable statement promising to value employees, not just shareholders. If they're truly serious, they should reject this plan to turn a quick profit by laying off workers and outsourcing jobs."
Whether you agree with Warren's policies or not, there's no way around the cold hard facts for Trump: AT&T is one of the nation's largest employers, and Singer's efforts there may end up costing tens of thousands of Americans their jobs right before an election year. That doesn't scream "Make America Great Again." Backing Singer with the hope he'll curb CNN's news coverage is therefore extremely shortsighted.
Of course, there could be other motivations for Trump's support of Singer. He's a GOP mega-donor, but he's also a Never Trump Republican and thus far he has not donated to Trump's re-election campaign. He donated heavily to former Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), much to Trump's chagrin: Trump slammed him for backing Rubio over his support of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Perhaps Trump is trying to make amends before the 2020 election.
But if the 2020 race boils down to a fight between Warren and Trump, Warren is going to look like the candidate who is on the side of the workers while Trump is defending the interests of a Never Trump billionaire. The families who see their paychecks disappear won't forget who supported them on election day 2020.
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