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Democrats to see if Trump used govt's powers to punish certain firms

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Democrats checking if he used govt powers to hinder companies that owned news organisations critical of him

WASHINGTON: When Democrats take control of the US House of Representatives, they plan to investigate the Trump administration's attempt to block AT&T from acquiring Time Warner.

They also plan to probe whether officials sought to punish by prodding the US Post Office to hike shipping prices for the world's largest e-commerce company, a senior Democrat and a congressional aide said on Sunday.

Speaking to online publication Axios, Representative Adam Schiff, who is expected to be the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Democrats will review if Mr Donald Trump used the powers of the federal government to punish the companies.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the likely incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the committee "may want to look into" whether the White House retaliated against Amazon and AT&T.

A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee aide said on Sunday that the committee has "already been investigating these matters, but the Trump Administration to date has not complied with our requests".

The aide added: "We fully expect that to change now that we are in the majority."

Mr Cummings also said on ABC's This Week that he intends to investigate if Mr Trump killed plans to relocate the new headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation because moving it could harm his business interests in the Trump Hotel across the street.

Mr Cummings in September asked the White House and the Trump Organisation for documents about Mr Trump's "failure to accurately report debts and payments" to personal attorney Michael Cohen "for silencing women who alleged extramarital affairs before the election".

Another committee aide said on Sunday that "the requested information was not provided because we were in the minority, and this should change now that we are in the majority." Mr Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight felony counts.

Since winning control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections last week, Democrats have vowed to launch investigations on a wide range of topics involving the Trump administration.

Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos privately owns the Washington Post, while Time Warner's holdings include CNN. Mr Trump has lambasted both outlets frequently for their critical coverage of him.

"It is very squarely within our responsibility to find out," Mr Schiff told Axios in an interview that will air Sunday on HBO.

Mr Schiff said: "(Mr Trump) was secretly meeting with the postmaster (general) in an effort to browbeat the postmaster into raising postal rates on Amazon...

"...This appears to be an effort by the president to use the instruments of state power to punish Mr Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post."

It is not clear what committees may probe the corporate issues, since Mr Schiff's Intelligence Committee would not have oversight. A Schiff spokesman declined further comment. AT&T and both declined to comment on Sunday. The White House also did not immediately comment. - REUTERS