The White House said on Tuesday that it would nominate Jonathan Kanter to be the top antitrust official at the Justice Department, a move that would add another longtime critic of Big Tech and corporate concentration to a powerful regulatory position.
President Biden’s plan to appoint Mr. Kanter, an antitrust lawyer who has made a career out of representing rivals of American tech giants like Google and Facebook, signals how strongly the administration is siding with the growing field of lawmakers, researchers and regulators who say Silicon Valley has obtained outsize power over the way Americans speak with one another, buy products online and consume news.
Mr. Biden has named other critics of Big Tech to prominent roles, such as Lina Khan, a critic of Amazon, to lead the Federal Trade Commission. Tim Wu, another legal scholar who says regulators need to crack down on the tech giants, serves in an economic policy role at the White House. And this month, Mr. Biden signed a sweeping executive order aimed at increasing competition across the economy and limiting corporate dominance.
Mr. Kanter, 47, is the founder of Kanter Law Group, which bills itself online as an “antitrust advocacy boutique.” He previously worked at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. His services have attracted some of the most prominent critics of Big Tech in corporate America, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Microsoft as well as upstarts like Spotify and Yelp.
If he is confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Kanter will lead a division of the Justice Department that last year filed a lawsuit arguing Google had illegally protected a monopoly over online search services. The antitrust division of the agency has also been asking questions about Apple’s business practices.
The White House took more than six months from Mr. Biden’s swearing-in to land on Mr. Kanter. The administration has had to juggle progressive and moderate factions within its own party, as well as the likelihood of Republican support in a divided Senate.
The decision won immediate approval from policymakers and advocacy groups helping to lead the charge for more stringent antitrust enforcement.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who leads the antitrust subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, called Mr. Kanter “an excellent choice,” citing his “deep legal experience and history of advocating for aggressive action.”
Sarah Miller, the executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, a progressive advocacy group, said in a statement that “President Biden has made an excellent choice to lead the D.O.J.’s antitrust division,” noting that Mr. Kanter had “devoted his career to reinvigorating antitrust enforcement.”
Makan Delrahim, a lawyer who led the Justice Department’s antitrust efforts under President Donald J. Trump, said in a text message that Mr. Kanter would be a “great leader” of the division and called him a “serious lawyer” with private sector and government experience.
Daily Business Briefing
The announcement may be less warmly embraced by deal-makers on Wall Street who have helped drive mergers and acquisitions volumes to record levels, propelled in part by an exuberant stock market.
Scrutiny in Washington on acquisitions has expanded beyond headline-grabbing Big Tech deals to industries like consumer goods, agriculture, insurance and health care.
The Justice Department has sued to block the proposed merger of Aon and Willis Towers Watson, its first major antitrust action since Mr. Biden took office. The F.T.C. announced in March that it was forming a group to “update” its approach to evaluating the impact of pharmaceutical deals, an industry that generally falls under its purview. That followed a report led by Representative Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, scrutinizing deals in the industry.
In recent years, Mr. Kanter built an unusual practice out of criticizing the tech giants from inside Washington’s corporate law firms. The tech giants have become lucrative clients for major law firms, often making it difficult for those firms to work for their opponents.
But last year, he left Paul, Weiss — an elite corporate litigation firm — because his portfolio representing critics of the tech giants conflicted with other work the firm was doing.
“Jonathan made this decision due to a complicated legal conflict that would have required him to discontinue important and longstanding client representations and relationships,” the firm said at the time.
Mr. Kanter’s critics are likely to question whether his previous work is a conflict of interest that should keep him out of investigations into the tech giants. Both Facebook and Amazon have asked that Ms. Khan recuse herself from matters involving the companies at the F.T.C., even though her background is as a legal scholar and not a paid representative for their rivals.
Asked whether Mr. Kanter would recuse himself from cases involving Google and Apple, a White House official simply said the administration was confident that it could move forward with his nomination given his expertise and record.
Even if Mr. Kanter has the votes to be confirmed it is likely to be months before he takes over at the Justice Department. Congress takes a long break during August — which could push his confirmation past Labor Day.
Cecilia Kang contributed reporting.
News Roundup: New vaccine rules for federal workers; bipartisan infrastructure deal falls short
In the news today: As COVID-19 cases continue to soar among unvaccinated Americans, President Joe Biden announced new vaccine requirements for federal workers, with a military vaccine mandate likely to follow. The Senate voted yesterday to begin debate on a “bipartisan” infrastructure plan. What’s the bipartisan part? That it’s less ambitious than needed and reeeeeally sketchy about its numbers. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed the Biden administration doesn’t have the legal authority to unilaterally cancel student debt, advocates point out that the Higher Education Act very specifically says it does.
Here’s some of what you may have missed:
Trump’s aides reportedly fretting over his potential toxic touch in future endorsements
The latest? Trump laid his bam on a candidate in Tuesday’s special House election in Texas, and that candidate—Susan Wright, the widow of Rep. Ron Wright, who previously held the seat—lost. Convincingly. And now Trump’s aides and assorted hangers-on are starting to show just a wee bit of panic.
Now, Trump and his advisers are trying to figure out what Wright’s defeat means for them — and how to contain any damage. Her loss Tuesday night sent shockwaves through the former president’s inner circle. Many privately concede the pressure is on them to win another special election next week in Ohio, where a Trump-backed candidate is locked in a close primary.
Yes, the Eye of Sour-Don now alights on Ohio, where another nail in Trump’s big, gilded, tricked-out King Tut loser coffin is being teed up as we speak. In Ohio’s special House election, Trump has backed coal lobbyist Mike Carey—because if you’re going to back losers, you might as well back losers from waning, has-been, loser industries like coal production.
Needless to say, the Trump team is currently on tenterhooks in advance of that election, because a Carey loss would allow Trump’s detractors to affix another big red loser stamp on Trump’s flaky, flop-sweaty forehead. More importantly, it might allow some of the nontrue believers in his party to finally spit out their ball gags.
Advisers worry that a second embarrassing loss would raise questions about the power of Trump’s endorsement — his most prized political commodity, which candidates from Ohio to Wyoming are scrambling to earn before next year’s midterms. More broadly, losses could undermine his standing in the Republican Party, where his popularity and influence has protected Trump’s relevance even as a former president barred from his social media megaphones.
While we should all root against Trump’s candidate next week, it’s important to note that Trump has never actually been a superstar endorser. His continued influence over his party and its elected officials is indisputable, but there’s plenty of reason to believe he cherry-picks his candidates in order to cultivate a phony winner’s veneer.
As CNN’s Chris Cillizza (I know, I know) noted in his July 28 column, Trump’s reputation as a kingmaker is, at the very least, exaggerated. Noting that Trump’s endorsement record is 141-42 in general elections, 3-2 in special elections, and 21-2 in battleground primaries, Cillizza writes:
In general elections, Trump has always padded his stats by endorsing lots and lots of incumbents who face almost zero chance of losing. Trump did a LOT of this in the 2020 cycle. For example, he endorsed Rep. James Comer in Kentucky’s 1st district; Comer won with 75% in a seat that Trump won by almost 50 points. No one thought Comer was losing. Trump’s endorsement had nothing to do with that fact.
And, yes, as Cillizza acknowledges, Trump’s endorsement record in primaries is very good, but it won’t help the Republican Party much if he backs dozens of slavering sycophants and Q-weirdos in contested primaries only to see them flame out in their general elections. And, regardless, the scuttling of Trump’s preferred candidate on Tuesday shows he’s vulnerable, even when it comes to primary candidates (though, granted, he may not be not quite as vulnerable in exclusively Republican primaries).
Unlike the Texas election, where voters from both parties were allowed to vote, the Ohio contest is a Republican primary. Trump allies say that means it will be a purer test of his ability to shape GOP nomination contests. At the same time, they argue that the more conservative nature of the race increases the odds that Trump’s endorsed candidate will be successful.
Some Republicans contend that Tuesday’s loss highlights a trend in Trump’s post-presidency: His endorsement doesn’t carry as much weight as when he was in office. After being kicked off social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, Trump has been forced to promote his endorsement largely through email blasts.
Aww, so sad.
I used to want Trump to shut up and go away forever. For one thing, he sounds like a glitchy jet engine sucking in the cast of The Jersey Shore. And I’ve had enough lies for one lifetime. But I happen to believe it’s in our best interest if he stays in the game. He’ll keep picking nonviable candidates and pushing the GOP further into Bonkersville, and his constant harping about election fraud will likely—as happened in the Georgia Senate runoff elections—depress turnout among his own base, many of whom already neglect to show up when Trump’s not on the ballot.
So keep talkin’, Loser Man. And keep hosting your Loser-paloozas. I can almost see the stink lines wafting off your stable of candidates, and it’s beautiful to behold.
It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.
Black woman’s travels with white adoptive sister end in police questioning
Bailey told the news station that officers also questioned her mom and a social worker before following them to baggage claim. “The whole time they were talking with us, people kept staring at us, whispering and stuff,” Bailey said.
She said it’s clear that she was racially profiled. “If the roles were changed and it was a white person walking off the plane with a Black person, like a Black child, I feel like things would be different,” Bailey said.
Frontier Airlines issued this statement to The Denver Channel:
”A concern was raised during the flight by another passenger who was sitting near the woman and child and suspected human trafficking. That passenger approached the flight crew with those concerns and subsequently completed a written report during the flight to document her observations. The captain was notified and felt an obligation to report the matter. Air travel is one of the most common means for human trafficking. Race played no part in the actions of the flight crew who were following established protocols”
Bailey said she and her family are considering suing the airline. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump tweeted on Tuesday: “After a flight, law enforcement accused Lakeyjanay Bailey of human trafficking her 4yo white sister, Olivia, & demanded to speak w/ their mother & a social worker to confirm their relationship! This traumatic experience shouldn’t have happened!”
Bailey’s experience, though frustrating, is unfortunately not unusual. Keia Jones-Baldwin, a Black North Carolina therapist, told The Today Show in 2019 she was accused of kidnapping her white son Princeton, who she was in the process of adopting. Jones-Baldwin was having car trouble and decided to knock on a local resident’s door when she said the person who answered the door called the police and accused her of stealing both the car and the child. She was again accused of kidnapping while vacationing with her family in Tennessee. Jones-Baldwin had decided to do a Western photoshoot. “The girl behind the camera would disappear and then come back. Finally she asked, ‘Is that your baby?’” Jones-Baldwin said. “I told her he was. Then she said, ‘I just took picture of this baby with his family two weeks ago.’”
The incident actually led to the authorities being called and Jones-Baldwin being made to show a custodial document proving she had permission to travel with her son. “We get a lot of stares,” Jones-Baldwin said. “I’m frequently asked if I’m Princeton’s babysitter … I get, ‘Why didn’t you let him stay with a family of his own race?’”
Her answer to the question was simple. “I don’t look at family as blood,” she said. “I look at family as love. When Princeton came into our lives, he came into our hearts.”
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