DOJ's antitrust chief says Trump tweets 'don't affect our decisions' a day after Trump slams Comcast

The chief of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division said Tuesday that political considerations do not impact the department’s work. The comments come a day after President Donald Trump suggested Comcast could face increased scrutiny for alleged anti-competitive behavior.

“As far as what we do, and our enforcement, we need the evidence, we need the economics, we go to court,” he told CNBC’s David Faber on “Squawk on the Street.” “Politics — that goes on between various aspects of the government — don’t affect our decisions to make these cases.”

The words may not help the president avoid potential congressional inquiries into his repeated threats to use the government’s regulatory powers to punish businesses and individuals affiliated with news networks that cover his administration.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Democrats plan to investigate some of those attacks when they take the House of Representatives next year, according to a Sunday report in Axios. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

He cited the president’s opposition to the $ 85 billion merger between CNN parent company Time Warner and AT&T, as well as an alleged plot to “browbeat the postmaster [general] into raising postal rates on Amazon.” Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, owns The Washington Post, and is a frequent target of the president’s barbs.

Delrahim said Tuesday that the department gets input on antitrust matters from both the executive and legislative branches.

“By the way, these types of concerns raised about Amazon are bipartisan,” he said. “Senators raise them. The president has raised it.”

The Time Warner-AT&T merger was approved by a federal judge earlier this year, though the Justice Department has appealed the decision.

The president has said that he has stayed away from the Justice Department’s litigation, though he has continued to comment on antitrust matters. As recently as Monday, Trump wrote in a post on Twitter that the American Cable Association has “big problems” with Comcast, which owns CNBC’s parent company NBCUniversal.

“They say that Comcast routinely violates Antitrust Laws,” Trump wrote. Citing a statement made by Fox Business News correspondent Charles Gasparino, Trump suggested that Comcast posed bigger threats than the Time Warner-AT&T merger. Comcast did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ACA, which represents more than 700 video and broadband providers, is asking the Justice Department to open an investigation into Comcast.

Earlier this month, the ACA sent a five-page letter to Delrahim alleging that Comcast has shown a “willingness to harm rivals” and offering its assistance in any potential inquiry.

The letter was sent amid reports that AT&T had approached Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal to discuss potential licensing deals that could threaten media rivals such as Disney and Netflix.

Powerful Democratic Senators including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., have raised antitrust issues regarding corporate giants like Amazon and Comcast.

Warren told The New York Times earlier this year that Amazon has “got to pick one business or the other.” Meanwhile, Blumenthal called for a renewed investigation into Comcast’s integration with NBCUniversal, saying the merger of the two companies, approved in 2011, poses a “very serious threat to competition.”

The president has targeted NBC News, a unit of NBCUniversal, throughout his presidency. In September, the president threatened to “look at” NBC’s television license, calling the network “fake news” and saying that he had “long criticized NBC and its journalistic standards—worse than even CNN.”

On Tuesday, CNN filed a lawsuit against the president and his top associates alleging violations of the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution for suspending the press pass of the network’s chief White House correspondent.

Disclosure: Comcast owns CNBC’s parent company NBCUniversal.

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