Is the President Engaging In Market Manipulation?

According to CNN, Donald Trump is getting desperate lately.

The economy is flashing warning signs Trump didn’t expect, his trade war with China is dragging on months longer than expected yet he refuses to give in and his chief promise to supporters — that he would build a wall along the southern border — has gone unfulfilled.

Trump, sources say, is searching for an accomplishment to run on in 2020 — and realizing time is running short to fulfill some of the key promises he made to voters in 2016.

That is why he is pushing aides to build his wall, regardless of legal impediments, and promising to pardon them for breaking the law.

As the trade war with China continues to escalate, the president refuses to re-evaluate, even as global markets become increasingly volatile. But on the last day of the G7 summit in France, Trump told reporters that he had received two telephone calls from Chinese officials saying that they wanted to restart talks. He added that “this is the first time I’ve seen them where they really want to make a deal.”

Apparently, that was a lie. Two unnamed officials told CNN that Trump “was eager to project optimism that might boost the markets.” It worked. Shortly after the president made that statement, world financial markets rebounded. George Conway, a legal expert and NeverTrumper, called it.

Here is how the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission defines market manipulation.

Market manipulation is when someone artificially affects the supply or demand for a security (for example, causing stock prices to rise or to fall dramatically).

Market manipulation may involve techniques including:

* Spreading false or misleading information about a company;
* Engaging in a series of transactions to make a security appear more actively traded; and
* Rigging quotes, prices, or trades to make it look like there is more or less demand for a security than is the case.

The president obviously spread false information about his interactions with China for the express purpose of affecting the markets. It is, however, not clear if political lies would be considered market manipulation, perhaps because we’ve never had a president who tested that possibility in court.

We do know from reporting in the New York Times, that in the 1980s, Trump engaged in market manipulation by investing in a company and then spreading rumors that he was about to take it over. Those rumors boosted the company’s stock value, at which point, he unloaded the stock and walked away with a nice profit. Eventually people caught onto his game and it quit working.

Because this president daily says and does things to which the only rational response is outrage, this latest incident went largely unnoticed. But it is a perfect example of how Trump will say anything to get himself out of a jam—laws be damned. As he gets more and more desperate, he’ll only get worse.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.