In a new book, the senator and former presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar condemns Donald Trump for “a whole lot of bluster with limited results” on her chosen subject, antitrust.
Klobuchar cites his appointment of conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court as proof Trump never had any intention of reining in giant companies for pursuing anti-competitive practices, whatever he told the little guy out on the campaign trail.
Antitrust matters will come into focus on Capitol Hill this week, with a confirmation hearing on Wednesday for Lina Khan, a 32-year-old Columbia law professor and “tech antitrust icon” nominated by Joe Biden for a seat on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The Minnesota Democrat’s book, Antitrust, will be published next week, beating the Missouri Republican Josh Hawley’s similarly themed The Tyranny of Big Tech to US shelves by a week.
The Guardian obtained a copy of Klobuchar’s book. Noting Trump’s campaign rhetoric against big companies, the former candidate for the Democratic nomination writes that he failed to deliver in office.
“Trump’s business career had one major thing in common with his ultimate antitrust impact,” Klobuchar writes, recounting Trump’s famous antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in 1986. “A whole lot of bluster with limited results.”
Klobuchar also criticises Trump for demanding investigations of companies or mergers for political reasons, notably when inveighing against a merger between Time Warner, owner of CNN, and AT&T.
“The president’s comments and, at times, actual actions and involvement,” she writes, “repeatedly raised serious questions about the integrity of his administration’s antitrust work, no matter how hard the [Department of Justice] and FTC antitrust staff worked.”
She also says Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, two of three rightwingers Trump appointed to the supreme court, have “extremely conservative views on antitrust”.
This, she writes, makes them likely to rule in favor of big companies in an era of mega-mergers and shrinking consumer choice, as major antitrust cases involving tech giants Google and Facebook move through the US court system.
At confirmation hearings, Klobuchar writes, Gorsuch dodged her questions on antitrust. Of Kavanaugh – with whom Klobuchar had a famously testy exchange about the judge’s liking for beer – she writes that she “was not impressed by what I saw”.
Kavanaugh, Klobuchar writes, seemed a disciple of Robert Bork, the author of The Antitrust Paradox and a conservative whose bitter confirmation hearings in 1987 ended with his withdrawal.
Groups including the American Antitrust Institute opposed Kavanaugh but amid allegations of sexual assault, which he strenuously denied, he made it on to the court. With the addition of Amy Coney Barrett in place of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the panel is now tilted 6-3 to conservatives.
On antitrust, though, there was a small sting in the tail. In May 2019, Kavanaugh joined the court’s liberals in a 5-4 ruling which said consumers could sue Apple for monopolising the market for iPhone apps.