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Bullying GM over ventilators is classic Trump Organization modus operandi

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this story: “We’re unwavering in our focus to get this done” – GM Moves Heaven & Earth To Build Ventilators]

GM really stepped up with a feasible plan to manufacture thousands of soon-to-be much-needed ventilators and for whatever reason (I’ll speculate it’s because CEO Mary Barra is a woman) Trump is arbitrarily jerking GM around on price, accusing them of acting unpatriotically, and weaponizing the Defense Production Act against GM for no apparent reason. The link above recounts how things got here.

Anyone who has ever dug through Trump Organization litigation will recognize the dance Trump is doing. He makes a deal, puffs it up in the press, goes back on the deal, and then creates a confusing media firestorm in hopes of renegotiating the deal.


Then he outspends the usually smaller contractor in court before they eventually accept the new price, unable to justify paying lawyers indefinitely. It’s a vile routine that amounts to abuse of the courts. Trump is hardly the only one to do it, but there’s never a time he doesn’t do it. Some people think that this is what makes him a “good businessman,” but it really just makes him a giant asshole.

Now, let’s assume GM really was gouging here — wouldn’t Trump also want to police all the companies selling to the states, since governors are complaining of that very thing? Nope. In those instances, where prices are being driven up by states competing for finite emergency resources, Trump has said he doesn’t want to invoke the “heavy hand of government.” But isn’t that precisely what he’s doing with GM and only GM?

There is a potentially good role for the Defense Production Act, and that’s to identify which companies are selling, making and/or able to make and sell much-needed equipment, and then fix the prices so the states aren’t getting soaked while still mindfully providing the companies with an incentive to made and employ.

Nothing like that is being done, of course. Trump is still thrashing around on Twitter, bullying only GM, treating this crisis like it’s any other zero-sum game with winner and losers, despite that the losers here are states. He’s oblivious to how the DPA could be used to increase production, employment, and take some of the pressure off the already-besieged states.

[Regarding this story: The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump Administration]

You probably won’t get as much schadenfreude out of this as I did, but Richard Epstein is a conservative legal giant who wrote a heavily circulated paper suggesting that the coronavirus was overblown hype and would result in about 500 deaths total.

The White House reportedly relied on Epstein’s paper for the cover it needed to ignore the inconvenient science and continue downplaying the threat.

So the New Yorker asked Epstein some very uncomfortable questions, mostly variants of Why were you so wrong? Epstein’s answers alternate between sophistry and belligerence, ending with him challenging the writer to a resume contest.

Epstein is wrong about a lot of things but rarely does any of it matter (like this anyway) and rarely does it occur in real time, so you can feel his ego snap in half during this interview. He is aware this will be his new legacy, and nothing he says now can undo it. He’s a law professor Bill Buckner, a single screwup subsuming a notable career.

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