The individuals, who requested anonymity to frankly discuss the investigations, said Barr and the States had made no final decision on either prosecution. They said crucial debates also remain on what remedies to seek out – which could include requiring Google to sell part of its business, like the Android operating system or YouTube.
Barr’s role: The attorney general has become an increasingly partisan lightning rod, especially for his role in directing Trump’s arguments with Democrats over issues such as the federal crackdown on protesters for racial justice. But antitrust actions to curb or break down tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have had bipartisan appeal, including from Democrats like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who recently argued against letting the “Big Tech army of lawyers, lobbyists and consultants use Barr as an excuse to get out of the law”.
Barr is expected to attend a White House meeting on Wednesday with Trump and the Republican attorneys general of Texas, Louisiana and Arizona, among other states, to discuss a 1996 law that protects online businesses from any harm. responsibility for much of their content. The White House has sought to weaken this law to resolve the GOP’s accusations of anti-conservative bias, and an executive order Trump signed in May asks state GAs to verify whether internet companies have abused their users by censoring speech policies.
Although Wednesday’s meeting is not scheduled to deal with the Google investigation, the company is likely to participate in the discussions, one of the people said.
Later today, the Justice Department is expected to hold meetings that will continue until Friday on DOJ’s plans for a Google lawsuit and the remedies it may pursue. Barr is expected to attend some of the talks, as are some of the Republican attorneys general who have visited the White House. GAs from other states can attend virtually.
And after: DOJ and states are considering lawsuits against the search giant that could unfold in stages: Justice will outline its thoughts on a possible antitrust lawsuit linked to the tech giant’s dominance in the search market, which could be filed as early as next week, but may require more time to prepare, people said. The lawsuit would include allegations related to contracts with Apple and smartphone makers that use the Android operating system to set Google as the default search engine on mobile devices.
States will have the option of deciding whether they wish to join the prosecution proposed by the DOJ.
The DOJ’s investigation into the ad technology market – which has been the focus of state attorneys general for over a year and was the subject of a Senate hearing last week – continues . While the Justice Department does not have any immediate ad technology plans, states expect to be ready to file a separate lawsuit in the coming weeks, two people said.
Other important players: Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat who led the states investigation into Google’s dominance in search, has hesitated to take antitrust action at this time and has argued for the investigation to continue. A key question is whether he will sign a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit or push states to continue their own investigation.
Another major question mark is New York Attorney General Tish James, who is participating in the Google investigation and lead a separate antitrust investigation on Facebook. James has supported the use of antitrust to target big tech companies, testifying last week at a New York Senate hearing on a bill that would strengthen state antitrust law to this end. On Google, however, she might be inclined to side with the Democratic GAs leading the state inquiry, two people said.