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Politics Justice Department officials say their antitrust lawsuit against Google is not politically motivated — but Trump's shadow will continue to loom over the case, especially if he's reelected

19:20  21 october  2020
19:20  21 october  2020 Source:   businessinsider.com

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Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr. AP Photo/Evan Vucci © Provided by Business Insider President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr. AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • The Department of Justice's historic antitrust lawsuit against Google, filed Tuesday, comes as President Donald Trump is urging his administration to accelerate a push to regulate big tech companies more heavily.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans agree that Google should be more heavily regulated, and the issues highlighted by the lawsuit have broad bipartisan support.
  • But Democrats and career Justice Department officials have voiced concerns about the timing of the lawsuit, which was reportedly rushed to file before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
  • Trump had been consulting with the Justice Department on the lawsuit before it was filed, White House advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters on Tuesday.
  • Trump has repeatedly attacked Google in the past, claiming without evidence that it attempted to sway search results to benefit Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. DOJ officials said Tuesday that the lawsuit has nothing to do with those complaints.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When Department of Justice officials announced a sweeping antitrust lawsuit against Google filed on Tuesday, they were quick to assure the public that the lawsuit has nothing to do with President Donald Trump.

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Trump has for years attacked Google — as well as other big tech companies — by claiming without evidence that its search engine is biased against him and slamming Google for its contracts with China. But when questioned by reporters at a Tuesday press conference, DOJ officials denied that Trump's claims about Google's purported bias had any bearing on the antitrust lawsuit.

"This case has nothing to do with that subject," Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen said. "Social media skew and bias ... that's a totally separate set of concerns dealt with by other people."

The lawsuit's focus is, in fact, widely bipartisan and enjoys support from both major parties. The DOJ accuses Google of having monopoly power and throttling competition in the online search and advertising markets, echoing the findings of a Democrat-led Congressional antitrust investigation that concluded last month.

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But Trump did have some hand in planning the lawsuit, according to White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who told reporters Tuesday that Trump had "been consulting" with the DOJ about the lawsuit.

Democrats voiced concerns Tuesday that the DOJ rushed to file the antitrust lawsuit in the final weeks before the Nov. 3 election in order to hand Trump a victory in his broader campaign against big tech.


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"I am pleased that the Justice Department is finally taking action, but I hope the questionable timing of the suit so close to the election doesn't undercut the work that must be done for American consumers in the weeks and months ahead," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said in a statement.

Last month, the New York Times reported that Attorney General William Barr pushed for the lawsuit to be filed before the election despite the objections of some career lawyers in the department.

A step ‘long overdue’: DOJ’s Google antitrust suit meets bipartisan praise

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The lawsuit's plaintiffs also indicate a partisan bent. Google was the subject of a joint antitrust inquiry by all 50 states in recent months, but only eleven of those states ultimately joined the DOJ's lawsuit — and all eleven have Republican attorneys general. Rosen denied on Tuesday that there was a partisan reason for that and suggested that Democrat-led states may join the lawsuit in the future.

"People might want to do their own thing on timing and approach," Rosen said. "That's fine, I don't take that as non-support."

The DOJ lawsuit will ultimately be led by the appointees of whoever wins the Nov. 3 presidential election. If Trump wins, Google could argue that the case is improperly politically motivated, using the President's previous public statements against the company as evidence.

That strategy was employed by Amazon's lawyers as they battled Microsoft over a $10 billion Pentagon contract. Amazon argued that it lost the contract due to Trump's "unmistakable bias" against Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos. Amazon ultimately lost the legal battle, but plans to appeal the decision.

Google: Antitrust lawsuit by the US Department of Justice is unfounded

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