Judiciary Democrats press White House over antitrust probe of automakers

Judiciary Democrats press White House over antitrust probe of automakers
© Greg Nash

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are demanding answers from the Trump administration over its antitrust probe into automakers who independently reached an agreement with California regarding state emissions standards.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerOfficials say foreign governments should not investigate presidential political opponents Dem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement Top Democrat holds moment of silence for Cummings at hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship FTC Democrat raises concerns that government is 'captured' by large tech companies Democrats want Mulvaney to testify in Trump impeachment probe MORE (D-R.I.), the chairman of the panel's antitrust subcommittee, questioned the administration in a letter to the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday.

The lawmaker wrote in their letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim that “any political abuse of the Department’s antitrust enforcement power is unacceptable.”

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"Antitrust enforcement must be conducted in accordance with the rule of law, never wielded as a political weapon to retaliate against perceived political enemies of the President," they wrote. "This is particularly shocking where it appears that a state representing approximately 40 million people and a set of important individual companies are being targeted for simply participating in the political process."

At the beginning of September, The Wall Street Journal reported that Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Ford were being investigated by the Justice Department to determine if the automakers violated antitrust laws when they agreed to follow emission standards set by California.

The Democrats are seeking documents and communications between Trump or other executive branch officials with the DOJ about the alleged antitrust violations, any communications about Trump or the attorney general's involvement in the probe as well as documents on any communications by the president related to the motor companies and their agreement to follow the California emissions standards.

The lawmakers are demanding answers by Oct. 2. 

The letter from the Judiciary Democrats dated Thursday follows another letter sent to the DOJ last week by Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSaagar Enjeti: Warren, Buttigieg don't stand a chance against Trump Warren overtakes Sanders in new poll The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump faces backlash for comparing impeachment to 'lynching' MORE (D-Calif.), who is running for president, in which she described the probe as “an expression of hostility towards California’s regulatory authority.”

On Thursday, the Trump administration formally revoked the Golden State’s ability to set its own emission standards, a privilege that was originally granted states by former President Obama.

California and 23 other states responded by suing the administration on Friday.