Mr. Trump’s antipathy toward many news organizations has led him to repeatedly threaten to interfere with media companies’ operations. He twice urged regulators to examine taking away the “license” from NBC, though it was unclear what license he was referring to. He declared as a candidate that he would not approve AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner because the company owned CNN, a network he frequently accuses of treating him unfairly, and the Justice Department later sued unsuccessfully to block the deal.
He has also lashed out at companies and their executives for perceived failures in responding to his desires. After Kenneth C. Frazier, the chief executive of Merck Pharmaceuticals, resigned from a presidential advisory council over Mr. Trump’s handling of violent white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Va., the president took after him on Twitter for “RIPOFF DRUG PRICES.”
Mr. Trump denounced General Motors for closing a car factory in Lordstown, Ohio, and three other plants in the United States, and attacked its chief executive, Mary T. Barra, by name. Later, with the onset of the coronavirus crisis, Mr. Trump criticized Ms. Barra for what he said was the company’s failure to make good on a promise to help make ventilators.
“Always a mess with Mary B,” he wrote on Twitter.
“He’s been doing this from the outset, using his power to try to influence corporate deals,” said Richard W. Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. “Being president is not the art of the deal. He’s not in a boardroom. He’s in the White House.”
But Mr. Trump’s efforts to dictate corporate decisions have been inconsistent, making it harder for executives to anticipate White House demands or reactions.
As he found himself on the defensive this spring in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Trump resisted calls to use the Defense Production Act to pressure industries to make more masks and medical supplies, saying that such a move would be akin to “nationalizing our business” and that the government “was not a shipping clerk.”
And even with China, which many in Washington have accused of gaming America’s free-market system by stealing intellectual property and cheating on trade rules, Mr. Trump has not always intervened to take a tougher line.