House Democrats plan to launch an investigation into President Trump’s attacks on various media outlets, according to reports on Sunday morning.
In an interview for “Axios on HBO,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that “It is very squarely within our responsibility to find out” whether or not certain actions Trump has taken against the media while in office constitute an abuse of White House power.
Schiff, who is poised to become the chairman of the House intelligence committee, pointed to two specific cases.
The first is AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, which Trump’s Department of Justice blocked in November 2017. Schiff observes that “We don’t know, for example, whether the effort to hold up the merger of the parent of CNN was a concern over antitrust, or whether this was an effort merely to punish CNN.”
Following the April 2018 FBI raid on the office of Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, AT&T confirmed in May that it had paid Cohen in 2017 for “insights into understanding the new administration.”
A document released by Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti alleged that Essential Consultants, a shell corporation started by Cohen through which payments were made from Trump to Daniels, “received $200,000 in four separate payments of $50,000 in late 2017 and early 2018 from AT&T.”AT&T disputed Avenatti’s timeline, but a source informed on the matter told CNN the payments were higher than those listed by Avenatti.
The second inquiry Schiff mentions involves Trump’s attacks on The Washington Post. Schiff claims that the President “was secretly meeting with the postmaster [general] in an effort to browbeat the postmaster [general] into raising postal rates on Amazon.” According to Schiff, “This appears to be an effort by the president to use the instruments of state power to punish Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post.” Jeff Bezos, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.
The Post reported that Trump met with U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan multiple times to personally pressure her to double the rates the Postal Service charges Amazon to ship packages.
According to the report, which cited three people familiar with the conversations, Brennan refused to comply with the President’s wishes, explaining to him that arrangements with companies like Amazon were bound by contracts and overseen by a regulatory commission. The President then signed an executive order establishing “a Task Force on the United States Postal Service (Task Force), to be chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury…to evaluate the operations and finances of the USPS.”
Schiff’s statements were made following the tensest week yet between the Trump administration and the press, in which the President called CNN reporter Jim Acosta a “rude, terrible person” and attempted to have his microphone forcibly removed (later revoking his press credentials), told PBS Newshour’s White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor that her question about Trump’s recent embrace of nationalism was “racist,” said CNN political analyst April Ryan was a “loser” and “nasty,” and accused CNN reporter Abby Phillip of asking “a lot of stupid questions” after she queried him about acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s potential plans to rein in the Mueller investigation.
The interview with Schiff is scheduled to air Sunday evening on HBO at 6:30 p.m. ET.