Trump interjects himself in Air Force One, business deals


By Jonathan Lemire, AP

FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina–President-elect Donald Trump, a political newcomer who touts his corporate skills, turned businessman-in-chief Tuesday, first demanding the government cancel a multibillion-dollar order for new presidential planes and then hailing a Japanese company’s commitment to invest billions in the U.S.

“We will defend American jobs. We have to look at it almost like a war,” Trump thundered in North Carolina, vowing to keep companies from moving overseas during the second stop of his “thank you” tour to salute his supporters. “We want the next generation of innovation and production to happen right here in America.”

Earlier in the day, Trump plainly telegraphed that when he takes office in six weeks he’ll take an interventionist role in the nation’s economy — as well as play showman when he sees a chance. The celebrity businessman’s declaration about Air Force One caused manufacturer Boeing’s stock to drop temporarily and raised fresh questions about how his administration — not to mention his Twitter volleys — could affect the economy. ‘Cancel order!’ “The plane is totally out of control,” Trump told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower. “I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.” Earlier he had tweeted that the deal’s costs were “out of control, more than US$4 billion. Cancel order!”

Not long after his first appearance, Trump returned to the lobby with Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank, a massive telecommunications company that counts Sprint among its holdings. Trump pointed proudly to Son’s commitment to invest US$50 billion in the United States, which Trump said could create 50,000 jobs.

Trump — who also tweeted the deal — shook Son’s hand and posed for photos, reveling as he had last week when he toured a Carrier plant in Indiana where he said he had instigated an agreement that will preserve about 1,000 jobs the appliance maker had planned to move to Mexico. Details of the deal were scarce and it was unclear if the money was part of a fund of up to US$100 billion in global technology investments that SoftBank and the government of Saudi Arabia announced in October.

The current Air Force are becoming too expensive to repair and keep in good flying shape. The overall deal for researching, developing and building new planes was to be about US$3 billion, but costs have been reported to be rising.

The General Accountability Office estimated in March that about US$2 billion of the total — for work between 2010 and 2020 — was for research and development on complex systems, not for building the actual aircraft. The inflated US$4 billion figure Trump cited appears to include operation and maintenance as well.

Boeing responded to Trump Tuesday in a statement: “We are currently under contract for US$170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the president of the United States. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the president at the best value for the American taxpayer.”

The US$170 million figure is just for a portion of the research and development efforts.

Trump began his onslaught against Boeing at 8:52 a.m. on twitter.

That tweet came 22 minutes after The Chicago Tribune posted a story in which the Boeing CEO voiced concerns about Trump’s views on trade.