Evidence Suggests Trump Manipulating the Stock Market

Evidence Suggests Trump Manipulating the Stock Market : His Manner, Motive & Means

Intro

Trump, far more than any other modern president, is obsessed with money in general, and in the status of the stock market in particular, habitually bragging about gains in its value. (Note 1) Many who follow the stock market have been mystified by its continued recent rise, despite the three Ps–pandemic, protests, and politics.(Note 2) Given the availability to Trump of the Plunge Protection Team (PPT) described under Means below, circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Trump has and will continue to manipulate the stock market, to increase his chances of being re-elected.

It is no secret that Trump will do most anything to win an election. An August 2020 bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report re-confirmed that Trump and his team allowed Russia to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, and that even Putin played a role.(Note 3) Recent intelligence reports suggest Russian meddling is continuing in the 2020 election, and Trump has done nothing to mention or investigate it.(Note 4) . We all know Trump was subject to impeachment proceedings in 2019 on charges of abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress, trying to find ‘dirt’ on Joe Biden and his son by withholding payments to the Ukraine. (Note 5) . After his tariff war with China resulted in significant loss of income to U.S. farmers, Trump appealed to China’s leader to buy more U.S. farm goods to support his re-election, according to John Bolton. (Note 6)  Clearly Trump’s behavior shows an amoral pattern of “win-at-all-costs”.

Manner

Trump’s actions show the stock market’s importance to him. President Trump has said he views the stock market as a report card for this administration, according to CNBC.(Note 7) In addition to boasting about the stock market’s value six different times in January 2018 alone (Note 7 too), he tweeted about it at least 88 times over the next two years! (Note 8) “All time high for stock market, fake news focuses on impeachment” (11/5/19) and the often-mentioned  “Record stock market high” (1/20/18, 7/3/19, etc) are examples of his tweets. Even his daughter Ivanka has tweeted about the stock market (See her tweets of 11/25/19;12/16/19;12/26/19).

Trump has bragged the stock market is “Something I know a lot about.” (Note 9). Of course, he has misrepresented himself too, for example, when he said on December 3, 2019 “I don’t watch the stock market..(but jobs)”. This same MSNBC report showed Trump commented about the stock market more than 12 times the previous month alone, clearly demonstrating that he does watch the stock market.(Note 10) He was reportedly furious with the February 2020 stock market slide during the pandemic, undoubtedly because of its negative implications on his re-election campaign. (Note 11)

Trump is no stranger to actual stock market manipulation either. In late August 2019, Trump indicated that he had received two trade negotiation calls from China when in fact there were none. This statement drove the market up 900 points in 2 days. Multiple Trump aides actually admitted that the President lied about the status of talks with China on tariffs, with the purpose of artificially boosting the stock market. (Note 12)

Motives

Trump has obvious motives for keeping the stock market high. First the negative job and business implications of the pandemic leave him nothing else to talk about, in terms of how he has grown the U.S. economy. A recently published April 2020 Federal Reserve chart (see below) shows the top 1% of U.S. wealth holders own about 50% of U.S.stocks, the top 10% own about 87%! Obviously, these individuals are more inclined to support Trump’s campaign financially and have the means to do so, if their stock holdings have gone up in value since Trump took office. In fact, the Republican National Committee has raised an amazing $1.21 billion through mid-August (Note 13) and the stock market’s growth is clearly a factor in that.

Fed Reserve Apr 2020

Another possible motive: market manipulation to reward Putin! We have all been seeing and reading how Trump fawns at Putin’s feet, and desires to be a similar autocrat. He does nothing to call out Russia for their election interference (Note 14) or Bountygate. Trump’s penchant for manipulation is supported by his older sister’s recently released overheard recording, in which she says of Donald “he has ‘no principles’ and ‘you can’t trust him’”(Note 15). His niece, Mary Trump, also said recently “He’s an adult human being who knows the difference between right and wrong. He just doesn’t think it applies to him.” (Note 16) There have been several suspicious documented trades where billions of dollars were made. (Note 17) It’s entirely possible these were Putin’s trades, and Trump has been tipping Putin in order to remain in his good graces.

Despite the huge business and jobs hit the economy has taken due to the mismanaged pandemic, recent polls suggest that Trump is still regarded by the public as better able to manage the economy than Biden, 48% to 38%. (Note 18) Undoubtedly the stock market’s recovery from the February 2020 bloodbath, resulting in the recovery in value of individuals’ personal 401(k) and other retirement plans, influences the public’s POV. Mnuchin concurs (Note 27). One doubts if individuals would feel the same about Trump and the economy, if the stock market had not recovered–or if they knew it recovered from the PPT’s stock market support at Trump’s direction, something any president could accomplish.

Means

Generally, the U.S. stock market is supposed to operate on a free-market system, an open one, not one influenced by outside forces. (Note 19) It would seem almost delusional that a U.S. president could have any way to influence the stock market directly, and use it whenever he wants. In fact, the Working Group on Financial Markets (aka the Plunge Protection team or PPT) was created in March 1988. Then-Republican President Ronald Reagan created this informal group by executive order, in the wake of the stock market crash of 1987— specifically October 19, 1987 when the Dow fell 22.6%. The PPT’s purpose was to provide financial and economic recommendations to the U.S. president during turbulent market times (emphasis added) and specifically report on the October 19 crash. (Note 20)  It was charged with “enhancing the integrity, efficiency, orderliness, and competitiveness of our nation’s financial markets and maintaining investor confidence.” (Note 21) During extreme downward markets when investors’ emotions can take over, having a stabilizing force the President can rely on makes sense. In a 1989 speech, former Federal Reserve Board of Governors member Robert Heller suggested the Fed could directly support the stock market by purchasing index futures contracts. (Note 22)  An August 2019 article described the PPT group and its location at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (Note 23) .

This post pandemic 12 year stock chart shows that there have been few declines of more than 15% in the last 12 years. After a 15% decline, the PPT would surely support the market.

Stocks worst week since 2008

The Plunge Protection Team reports only to the President, isn’t widely covered by the press, and doesn’t release the minutes of its meetings or its recommendations. (Note 24). The PPT could be the perfect cover for Trump’s personality and his style of bending the rules to get what he wants. It’s not hard to imagine Trump working with Steve Mnuchin to push the U.S. stock market higher to support Trump’s re-election, even when there has been no turbulent down market in the preceding three months. Who knows, maybe Russia is also lending Trump a hand supporting the market too!

Members of the PPT Group        

The key PPT group members follow. (Note 25) They report to the President who gives the final OK on any market support.  (The members can designate aides or officials to represent them.)

  1. The PPT head, the Secretary of the Treasury, currently Republican Steve Mnuchin. Steve has been in the news recently for his involvement in the controversial Post Office hiring of Mr. Dejoy as the new Postmaster General (Note 26). Mr. Dejoy is at the center of the current mail-in ballot voting controversy for the upcoming presidential election. Steve is clearly a go-to guy for Trump. Here’s a description/video of a March 2020 Mnuchin call. (Note 27)
  2. The Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell. (Note 28)  A Republican, he was originally appointed by Obama and re-appointed by Trump. (Note 29)
  3. The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton. He was nominated by Trump in January 2017. (Note 30) Though a political independent, he has golfed with Trump. He has a pending nomination to be the top federal prosecutor in New York, where several Trump associates are being investigated. His nomination faces difficulties. (Note 31)
  4. The Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Heath P. Tarbert. He was nominated in 2019 by the Trump White House. A Republican, his background and job suggest he would be familiar with the use of derivatives like Heller’s suggested index future contracts.(Note 32)

So we have three Republicans and an independent stock market supporter (SEC chair Clayton) on the PPT. One could see Powell, Clayton and Tarbert not being told if Trump directs Mnuchin to support the stock market during Trump’s reelection campaign. The U.S. public would never know that Trump himself created the stock market’s “affirmation” of future U.S. economic growth. 

Next Steps

We must and can quickly determine if Trump has directed the U.S. stock market to be supported during his presidency, and to what extent. One would expect there would have been some PPT support provided during the recent pandemic crash, between mid-March and the end of May 2020, by which time 90% of the market’s decline had been recovered. No further support would have been needed from then, as the market had stabilized. There would be PPT documentation of when and how that support occurred.

We note that those involved in following Trump’s direction to support the market during the 2020 presidential campaign, for the purpose of influencing the election, are likely in violation of the Hatch Act. “The purpose of the Hatch Act is that (one) can not be using the levers of the federal government to keep (oneself) in power,” according to Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. (Note 33) Federal employees acting at Trump’s direction to prop up the market in any way, would be doing just that.

We suggest the following:

  1. Immediately ask Trump directly if he directed anyone to support the U.S. stock market:
    1. during the just completed August 24-28 Republican nominating convention (when the S&P went up five days in a row to all-time highs);
    2. during his impeachment hearings, generally mid-December 2019 through January 2020, when the market went up 4% despite the impeachment process (see image);
      S&P 500 Historical Price Table
    3. and if so, how many times during his presidency (January 2017 to today)? Was it 10, 20, 50 times, or more?

      Note Trump undoubtedly agreed to have the PPT support the market at some point during the pandemic decline, as that was the purpose for which the PPT was created.

      Also ask Trump if he ever directly or indirectly tipped Putin, before a future PPT action occurred.
  2. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin should immediately be summoned to testify before the appropriate Congressional committee, perhaps a joint committee hearing involving the Federal Election Commission too. That committee could be the House Financial Services Committee, or its Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.

    The questions they could ask Secretary Mnuchin, the Trump confidante, who would undoubtedly be the PPT member to make any market support happen, include:

    • How many times did you or Trump directly, ask to have the stock market supported since 2017? On what specific days?
    • Why was the market supported after May 31, 2020 (if it was) ?
    • What individuals are involved in helping make this support happen?
    • Are there records for these transactions, and if so where are they kept?
    • What has been the overall loss (or gain) to the U.S. Treasury from this support, from 2017 to August 31, 2020?
    • Did Trump ever tip Putin directly or indirectly, to your knowledge?

  3. The same Congressional committee could then inquire who were the individuals involved in supporting the stock market, have them describe their roles, and present any documentation of their actions on days they implemented “orders” to support the market.

Trump, Mnuchin,the other employees involved may not be forthcoming with information, at Trump’s direction. If so, there is another individual who could provide a lot of PPT details: President Barack Obama. Obama likely used the PPT during his presidency at the end of the stock market’s 2008 downturn, in late January and February of 2009. He also undoubtedly briefed Trump on the PPT’s existence during the 2017 presidential transition. Or maybe disgruntled former members of Trump’s team–economic adviser Gary Cohn or personal attorney Micheal Cohen–would share what they know.

Again, any individuals supporting the stock market at Trump’s direction during the current election are likely in violation of the Hatch Act. See discussion of some recent violations here during the RNC. (Note 34)

Conclusion

Because of the effects of the pandemic, the U.S. economy has tanked in terms of positive economic activity and the unemployment rate. The only business-related area Trump might be able to crow about in his re-election campaign, is the stock market. Thus the strong likelihood is, he will do anything to ensure it continues to go up. 

On August 26,2020, Trump tweeted that if Biden wins, “Stock Markets would literally CRASH.” During the impeachment process, he similarly indicated his impeachment would also lead to a crash (1/19/19 Tweet). Not an orderly decline, CRASH! This is more than his narcissistic personality tweeting. We think it comes from a knowledge he would love to disclose but can’t: he has been supporting the markets all along, much more than the PPT was originally intended to do. Trump knows the markets would CRASH without the continued use of the PPT, perhaps Russian support too. 

An observation: Trump’s market support would likely end if he is defeated in the upcoming presidential election.The PPT would answer to Trump until Biden’s January 2021 inauguration.

Trump would likely not use the PPT and let the stock market ‘CRASH’ if he loses, ‘CRASH’ just as Trump forecast it would: a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Biden/Harris, beware!

Dow Jones graph from late 2008 to Sept 2020
Dow Jones from late 2008 to Sept 2020. Note only a few significant declines.

Footnotes:

Note 1
https://www.mediaite.com/opinion/why-doesnt-the-media-seem-to-care-that-trump-could-be-deliberately-manipulating-the-stock-market/     ZZ2

Note 2
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-finance-202/2020/06/04/the-finance-202-the-world-is-falling-apart-but-the-stock-market-keeps-surging/5ed81c4b602ff12947e835a2/    ZZ 3 

Note 3
https://www.npr.org/2020/08/18/903512647/senate-report-former-trump-aide-paul-manafort-shared-campaign-info-with-russia (ZZ8)

Note 4
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/07/us/politics/russia-china-trump-biden-election-interference.html   ZZ9 

Note 5
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trump%E2%80%93Ukraine_scandal (ZZ 11  )

Note 6
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/19/business/economy/trump-china-trade-war-farmers.html  ZZ12

Note 7
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG9i_p3pnJI
MM 1.5 :2018 stock market boasts 

Note 8
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uXfSFzdnI_0REQIwRUIEgcOWIqnvoEM0QNiZ_qBc5IE/edit#gid=0
MM1 
A complete list of Trump stock market tweets can be searched here:
https://www.bloomberg.com/features/trump-tweets-market/?sref=olvc1dT7

Or here:
http://trumptwitterarchive.com/archive,
which Is an archive of every tweet Trump has sent out. For example, type in ‘stock market’ in the search bar to see all his tweets that mention the stock market

Note 9
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/26/upshot/coronavirus-trump-stock-market.html

Note 10
link to story :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJD0F5ePRos
MM3

Note 11
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/02/25/white-house-struggles-contain-public-alarm-over-coronavirus-despite-panic/?utm_campaign=wp_the_finance_202&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_finance202

Note 12
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/china-phone-calls-market-manipulation-donald-trump-george-conway-kellyanne-conway_n_5d689549e4b02bc6bb371b3d    
&
https://www.mediaite.com/opinion/why-doesnt-the-media-seem-to-care-that-trump-could-be-deliberately-manipulating-the-stock-market/

Note 13
https://www.npr.org/2020/05/20/858347477/money-tracker-how-much-trump-and-biden-have-raised-in-the-2020-election

Note 14
https://visdis.us/egregious-act-4/

Note 15
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/maryanne-trump-barry-secret-recordings

Note 16
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/07/watch-mary-trump-on-why-donald-trump-lies-why-hes-racist-and-why-she-wrote-her-book/

Note 17
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/hanky-panky-traders-pocket-stunning-profits-after-trumps-comments-on-trade-talks-goose-the-stock-market-2019-10-17)

Note 18
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/biden-remains-ahead-trump-nationally-eve-conventions-nbc-news-wsj-n1236873).

Note 19 ,20 & 21
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/plunge-protection-team.asp

Note 21 & 22
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_Group_on_Financial_Markets

Note 23
https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-08-04/meanwhile-inside-plunge-protection-team-chaos

Note 24
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/plunge-protection-team.asp

Note 25
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_Group_on_Financial_Markets

Note 26
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/22/business/economy/dejoy-postmaster-general-trump-mnuchin.html

Note 27
https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/there-will-be-liquidity-mnuchin-vows-he-urges-banks-use-discount-window

Note 28
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chair_of_the_Federal_Reserve

Note 29
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Powell

Note 30
https://www.sec.gov/biography/jay-clayton

Note 31
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-21/sec-chief-urged-to-drop-u-s-attorney-bid-amid-political-battle?sref=olvc1dT7

Note 32
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heath_Tarbert

Note 33
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/30/six-white-house-officials-violated-the-hatch-act-with-political-tweets.html

Note 34
https://www.businessinsider.com/former-government-ethics-chief-slams-trump-rnc-white-house-presentation-2020-8

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