On Wednesday, DOJ whistleblowers appeared in front of the House Judiciary Committee to testify about the corruption of Attorney General William Barr and how it has affected criminal court cases and investigations.
A career Justice Department official testifies that an antitrust probe of automakers was launched the day after Trump fumed about their emissions arrangement with California https://t.co/4FfUsami9B
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) June 24, 2020
Alongside the more salacious revelations about Barr’s and Trump’s interference in the criminal case against Trump friend and ally Roger Stone was testimony about an antitrust lawsuit started to investigate automakers. A policy by President Obama that mandated automakers to make new cars with the capability to get at least 50 miles to the gallon by 2025 was rolled back by Trump to 40 miles per gallon in the same timeframe. Automakers stuck to the original mandate because California chose to adhere to Obama’s plan, enraging Trump and sparking angry tweets.
John Elias, a career DOJ official who served as the chief of staff in the antitrust department, testified that the DOJ antitrust division was ordered to open a probe into those automakers the next day. According to The Hill:
‘Trump’s August tweets and the subsequent investigation came as the administration was developing now-finalized tailpipe emission and mileage standards for vehicles that significantly roll back those developed under the Obama administration.’
The investigation was not only out of the purview of the antitrust division, it was wrongfully ordered, according to Elias. In his opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee, Elias said:
‘In July 2019, California, together with four major automakers, announced an arrangement on air quality emissions standards that would be stricter than the rules the EPA was preparing to adopt. Under well-established antitrust precedent, states have wide latitude to regulate. In addition, under a doctrine called Noerr-Pennington, which is grounded in the First Amendment, companies are free to collectively lobby the government for regulation. On August 20, 2019, the New York Times reported that President Trump was â€œenragedâ€ by the deal and wanted to retaliate.’
Looks like John Elias, the DOJ attorney testifying before House Judiciary tomorrow on allegations of political interference in antitrust, is focusing on cannabis mergers and the auto emissions probe: https://t.co/JKJzOsHAxK
— Brian Fung (@b_fung) June 23, 2020
In a particularly illuminating moment during the hearing, Elias referred to the orders to investigate as “an abuse of authority,” abuses carried out by Attorney General Barr. There was no legal basis for the investigation since “companies are free to collectively lobby the government for regulation,” Elias said. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) referred to the investigation as “illegitimate,” asking:
‘Bottom line, it wasn’t a legitimate antitrust investigation, was it?’
Elias responded by saying:
‘The events here constituted an abuse of authority.’
— CPI (@CompPolicyInt) June 24, 2020
Featured image screenshot via YouTube