Attorney General William P. Barr says to expect a decision on pursuing antitrust action against big tech giants this summer — and he sounds determined to go after the likes of Google for “censoring” Americans’ political debate.
Mr. Barr said in a podcast with Sen. Ted Cruz, released Thursday morning, that the tech company engaged in a “bait-and-switch” in promising to be good stewards of the massive online public forum they control, only to end up picking sides.
“When they got that market power now they’re censoring views,” he said. “We’re getting increasingly monolithic viewpoints being presented to the American people rather than robust debate.”
He said the Justice Department has been pondering antitrust action, and he will be “making decisions in next few weeks about that.”
“During the summer we’ll see developments,” he said in the episode of “Verdict, Mr. Cruz’s hit podcast.
Mr. Barr’s comments come as the Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the possibility of bringing an antitrust case against Google.
A lawsuit alleging that Google is using its dominant position in the marketplace to stifle competition has been expected for some time. Another potential aspect of the suit could be Google’s advertising business, which gives the company control over every link in the digital media supply chain.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the antitrust probe.
Mr. Barr also said to expect federal charges to come against rioters who tried to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson that sits on federal land near the White House.
He said federal agents are reviewing video from the attack on the statue to build cases.
“We will go after people,” he said.
“So if you attack a monument on federal property, you’re going to get prosecuted?” said Mr. Cruz, Texas Republican.
“That’s right,” Mr. Barr responded, criticizing the history knowledge of some protesters who have targets Ulysses S. Grant and others.
“It’s anarchy, is what it is,” the attorney general said. “And from people who are very ignorant, don’t care about history at all. I imagine they looked at U.S. Grant’s statue, didn’t know who he was, didn’t know what side he was on.”
“He was a great Republican president who did more for advancing the right of African Americans in this country than probably any single president,” Mr. Barr added.
When it comes to the broader demonstrations nationwide, some of which have erupted into violence, he said the role of protecting people and property lies foremost with local officials. The federal government’s role comes later, he said, in bringing charges against those that break federal law.
He said there are 500 active Joint Terrorism Task Force investigations into agitators behind some of the more violent protests.
Earlier this week, President Trump warned protesters that the could face a decade in prison for targeting the Jackson statute, invoking a 2003 law that establish severe penalties for targeting veterans’ memorials across the country.