WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee wants to know whether President Donald Trump played any role in what has been described as a federal antitrust investigation of Ford and three other auto companies that have made a deal with the state of California on fuel mileage standards.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Thursday sent a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and the Justice Department, noting his committee's investigation into possible allegations of obstruction of justice "and other abuses of power" by Trump.
"We write to obtain information regarding President Trump's latest apparent attempt to deploy the Justice Department's legal antitrust authority for partisan political purposes -- in this case against the state of California and automakers with which it has reached an emissions agreement," wrote Nadler.
The letter was also signed by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who chairs a subcommittee overseeing antitrust issues. The Judiciary Committee put out a news release Friday afternoon announcing that the letter had been sent.
The Justice Department declined comment and the White House didn't immediately respond.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration seemed to make a concerted effort to warn California and the automakers -- which also includes Volkswagen, BMW and Honda -- that they could face federal violations for a deal in which the car manufacturers and the state set future mile-per-gallon standards.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Justice Department was examining potential antitrust violations related to the agreement and, in a letter to the California Air Resources Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation cautioned that it "appears to be inconsistent with federal law" and that only the administration could set fuel standards.
The automakers made the deal with California against the longstanding threat of the Trump administration freezing yearly increases in mpg-standards put in place under former President Barack Obama.
While that hasn't happened yet, this week, Trump announced that the federal government would terminate California's waiver -- granted under the Clean Air Act -- to set fuel standards that it and 13 other states require.
The Trump administration has argued the standards force Americans to spend more on autos while doing little to improve the environment. Supporters of the standards say they have greatly reduced carbon emissions -- improving health -- and will continue to do so.