Nixon Scandal Resulted In A Law To Prevent The Politicization Of Antitrust Cases; Meanwhile Trump Uses His Politicized Antitrust Effort In Campaign Ad

from the different-times-apparently dept

Everyone knows about President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, but you might now know as much about another huge scandal that preceded that one -- involving Nixon meddling, for political purposes, in an antitrust case by his Justice Department against a large "tech" company/conglomerate at the time. The case involved ITT trying to buy up some smaller companies, and the DOJ brought an antitrust case against them. The scandal part was that ITT approached the White House and worked out a deal: ITT would donate $400,000 (roughly $2.5 million today) to the 1972 Republican National Convention, and Nixon would get the DOJ to drop the case. Which he did. As the Nixon tapes eventually revealed, he called up then deputy Attorney General Richard Kleindienst and said:

“The I.T.T. thing — stay the hell out of it. Is that clear? That’s an order ... I do not want McLaren to run around prosecuting people, raising hell about conglomerates, stirring things up.”

Kleindienst's responded that he understood. Soon after he was nominated to be Attorney General, and during his Senate confirmation hearings he was asked whether the White House had interfered in the DOJ case against ITT, and he denied it. During Watergate, when the Nixon tapes came out, proving that Kleindienst lied, he ended up pleading guilty for lying to Congress.

The reason that the IIT quid pro quo deal with the White House was revealed was because a lobbyist for ITT named Dita Beard had sent around a memo with the details of the deal, which amusingly closed with "please destroy this, huh?" It wasn't destroyed, and instead was leaked to the Washington Post's Jack Anderson who sent his associate, a young Brit Hume, to Beard's house to verify the memo and get an explanation for it.

So, what's this historical story got to do with anything? Well, as we've discussed a few times now, current Attorney General Bill Barr's antitrust crusade against Google is clearly a politicized farce. Barr told the DOJ that they had to file before the election. DOJ staffers resigned from working on the case in protest. And the final case is stunningly weak.

But, after the ITT/Nixon debacle, Senator John Tunney introduced and got passed into law the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, better known as the Tunney Act. It was designed to prevent another ITT/Nixon situation from happening again, by trying to stop the DOJ/White House from politicizing antitrust. The mechanism to do so is somewhat simplistic, but any settlement agreement is supposed to go before a judge to check to make sure the deal is in the public interest, rather than for shady political reasons. Parts of the law are often ignored in antitrust settlements, and it makes news when judges remember it exists.

However, it does seem notable that the whole intent of the law was to stop sketchy backroom politicization of antitrust activities by the White House telling the Justice Department what to do. And yet, now, we literally have a President of the United States directly politicizing his own DOJ's antitrust campaign. On Wednesday evening Trump tweeted out a weird campaign ad that rambles incoherently about "big tech" being bad, and how something needs to be done. Then he flat out admits that because he believes big tech is "against him" that's why "we" are going after Google:

Big tech has to be spoken to and probably in some form has to be stopped because they're taking away your rights. They're taking away things that nobody would have believed possible. So one of the things we're doing -- you saw what happened with Google -- with the lawsuit. One of the things we're doing is looking very powerfully and strongly at big tech. Go out and vote.

In any other administration in history, this alone would have been a scandal. The DOJ is supposed to be an independent agency from the President, and isn't supposed to bring cases based on political whims, such as tech companies "not liking" the President. And the President isn't supposed to be claiming direct credit for the lawsuit. Like others have pointed out, this is like Stupid Watergate. Things that Nixon did behind closed doors Trump is doing blatantly out in the open, and somehow that's why he gets away with it.

Here, he's flat out admitting that the DOJ cases against Google is not for legitimate reasons by for political ones, and he's using that case, for which he takes credit, in a literal campaign ad. If the courts actually cared about the Tunney Act (and a few judges out there might still believe in it) this would be yet another giant gaping hole in the case. Google now has more than enough evidence to highlight that the entire case was brought for political purposes, and not for legitimate ones.

The Nixon/ITT mess raised enough concerns that it caused some to talk about impeachment (of course that was then superseded by Watergate). Here, Trump is doing worse things in public, and it barely gets a shrug.

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Filed Under: antitrust, doj, donald trump, motives, politicization, richard nixon, tunney act
Companies: google


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 9:45am

    'We break the laws, and we give the orders.'

    But remember, Trump's GOP is all about Law and Order.

    Had Nixon been president today he could have ordered the Watergate break-in on national television and the current republican party would pretend that he never said a thing at the same time finding some excuse as to why it's perfectly acceptable for the president to do so, all the while complaining that the dastardly media was blowing the whole thing completely out of proportion and how it was nothing but a democratic hoax cooked up to make Nixon look bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Narcissus (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 11:12am

    I'm breakin' tech in the hot sun
    I broke the law and the law's gone
    I broke the law and the law's gone
    I needed money 'cause I had none
    I broke the law and the law's gone
    I broke the law and the law's gone

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 11:17am

    The bias is clear

    In any other administration in history, this alone would have been a scandal

    In any other administration in history, corporations wouldn't be censoring the President of the United States of America.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2020 @ 11:31am

      Re: The bias is clear

      MAGA: Morons Are Getting Angsty

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2020 @ 11:32am

      Re: The bias is clear

      The only countries that insist that nobody disagree with their president are all one party tyrannies, is that what you want for the US.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2020 @ 11:35am

      Re: The bias is clear

      Prove how he's unable to speak - he's still spouting his ramblings on Twitter. That's hardly censorship. Either provide proof from an independent, non-Republican, non-Democratic source or provide a complete retraction of everything you have ever said on this site. Now.

      Failure to respond will count as such a retraction.
      Arguing will count as such a retraction.
      Trolling will count as such a retraction.
      Misdirection/whataboutism will count as such a retraction.

      Any response other than that which has been requested will count as such a retraction. So the only way you can save face is to either provide the requested proof or the retraction directly. The choice is yours.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2020 @ 11:42am

      Re: The bias is clear

      In any other administration in history, corporations wouldn't be censoring the President of the United States of America.

      Wow, I wasn't aware Twitter had completely blocked something Trump said. How will I ever get to know what that was? Oh wait, they didn't block it, they just put a fact-check link on it. Oh wait, I don't use Twitter, so I don't care what they block or don't block. Oh wait, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, OAN, Breitbart, Facebook, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, USA Today, and around 300 other outlets all have coverage on what he said.

      Please, do go on about how the President is being censored.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PatrickH, 30 Oct 2020 @ 11:54am

      Re: The bias is clear

      We have the 1st Amendment which means the government doesn't get to tell anyone what they have to print.

      Also, no other President has been so personally addicted to social media and spent so much time actively lying about a national health emergency among other things.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 11:59am

      Re: The bias is clear

      In any other administration in history, corporations wouldn't be censoring the President of the United States of America.

      Koby, no one is "censoring" the President.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Nathan F (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 12:18pm

      Re: The bias is clear

      In any other administration in history, corporations wouldn't be censoring the President of the United States of America.

      Maybe if the president wasn't doing and saying so much stupid shit online they wouldn't have to moderate his posts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2020 @ 12:22pm

      Re: The bias is clear

      "In any other administration in history, corporations wouldn't be censoring the President of the United States of America."

      Perhaps you need to read a few history books.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 12:26pm

      Hop off the cross already, someone else could use the wood

      Much like the current one, because its' not happening now either as Trump sure is loud for someone supposedly being 'censored'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2020 @ 12:34pm

      Re: The bias is clear

      In any other administration in history, corporations wouldn't be censoring the President of the United States of America.

      Who the fuck is censoring the president?

      Why are you so fucking bad at this Koby. You are a typical Trumpist who believes that up is down if you say it enough times. Then when pointed out as to how wrong you are, you keep digging and start sounding more and more idiotic.

      Seriously SMFH!!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Code Monkey (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 12:51pm

      Re: The bias is clear

      Gotta agree with most of the crowd here, Koby. Trump is still able to communicate his thoughts via a dozen other media outlets.

      In order for him to be censored, then Trump would have to have NO mechanism whatsoever of expressing his opinions.

      I think a fairer display of bias, on both sides, is what information each news outlet/social media outlet chooses to cover and which information they choose to deliberately NOT cover.

      The argument is valid for everyone from FoxNews/OAN to Facebook/Twitter.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 2:02pm

        I think a fairer display of bias, on both sides, is what information each news outlet/social media outlet chooses to cover and which information they choose to deliberately NOT cover.

        The argument is valid for everyone from FoxNews/OAN to Facebook/Twitter.

        You're not likely to find anyone here arguing that various platforms don't have their own biases(in what way and to what extent is where the disagreements come into play), the problem comes from people like Koby arguing that platforms shouldn't be allowed to have biases and must remain 'neutral', forced to host both the civilized people and those that think it's just downright hilarious to do the equivalent of shitting in the middle of a packed room just to spite and disgust those around them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PatrickH, 30 Oct 2020 @ 11:33am

    I am sure Google's lawyers are lapping it up as Trump just hands them ammunition to sink the DOJ's case. At&t using Trump's grudge with CNN to end the DOJ's attempts at stop their Time Warner merger should have been an object lesson

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Code Monkey (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 12:03pm

    I guess Trump thinks that since Nixon is dead, so is the law......

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 12:19pm

      Re:

      To be fair, after the impeachment debacle when the entire republican party(minus one if memory serves) made clear that he's above the law he's got good reason to think that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2020 @ 12:37pm

        Re: Re:

        To be fair, after the impeachment debacle when the entire republican party(minus one if memory serves) made clear that he's above the law he's got good reason to think that.

        This 💯

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 4:39pm

        Technically, one Senator on one of the two articles of impeachment. Romney voted to acquit on the other.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Code Monkey (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 12:39pm

    ..to Anonymous Coward's response to Koby....

    Although I disagree with many of Koby's comments, I think yours comes off as very viseral and emotional, bordering on hateful.

    Failure to respond will count as such a retraction.
    Failure to respond by what date? If he chooses to wait until May 11th, 2023 @ 07:13:09 AM, and then dump a couple of gigs worth of proof, will you apologize? Will you provide a complete retraction of everything you have ever said on this site. Now?

    Arguing will count as such a retraction.
    By definition, if he were to provide said proof, that IS his argument, is it not?

    Trolling will count as such a retraction.
    I've never met Koby, and I have called him out on his opinions before. My responses here are merely to point out that the five parameters you list that count as a retraction seem to be, as I said, to be a very viseral, emotional reaction to an opinion you disagree with, rather than a definitive argument as to why you believe Koby is incorrect in his assertation.

    Misdirection/whataboutism will count as such a retraction.<br /> Any response other than that which has been requested will count as such a retraction.

    Those last 2 were just amusing.

    If the basic tenet of "Freedom of Speech" is designed to foster discussion between 2 opposing viewpoints, yours, quite honestly, sounds like you're not interested in letting him voice his opinion. And that is exactly what it is.....HIS OPINION.

    Mike could exercise his editorial right (as owner of this blog) to simply delete Koby's comment (including the link that allows users to see it if they want.)

    Order a pizza and chill, brother. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      AC Unknown, 2 Nov 2020 @ 3:39am

      Re: ..to Anonymous Coward's response to Koby....

      I believe there's a reasoning behind the other AC's vehemence towards Koby. Because it seems like when challenged on his (rather fact-light) viewpoints, Koby either deflects, runs away, trolls, or fails to provide the proof requested (kinda like some of the other trolls that show up here or have showed up here in the past). I'm guessing the AC just got tired of seeing that happen and amped up the challenge.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 1:35pm

    Every law has a history.

    Most laws have a beginning. When some person took advantage of a situation or person or group or what ever.
    And it was decided it was a BAD thing.
    Then there are laws in place to play favorites. Like the Hemp laws.
    Then we have regulations on how a business or Thing should be controlled or run. Like the stock exchange and banking industry.

    What happens when no one pays attention to 1 of these things, its abit bad. But when event he gov. dont pay attention to those that THEY created and they control...everything become a Spit Show.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Billy Lane, 30 Oct 2020 @ 6:47pm

    Thank you and God Bless

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheForumTroll (profile), 31 Oct 2020 @ 4:02am

    Democracy

    A two-party system close on the spectrum, leaders and police above the law, in the pocket of the rich. Anyone still think the US is a democracy? In a democracy the outcome would be the same if the police stops Trump, Musk or a random poor black dude for drunk driving and their call to their representative would be equally important.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 31 Oct 2020 @ 3:43pm

      Re: Democracy

      Good question, but the only democracy we have is SELECTING who is to represent us in this nation.
      ANd hope and pray they DO the job.

      The problem tends to Be, WHO selects Who.
      Do we really have a choice?
      We didnt decide Who was running,
      We didnt decide the Abilities they needed
      The education they needed, or anything Else.

      They were only 2? supplied by a 3rd party, and the candidates Probably were NEVER raised in this area.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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