Democrats to probe president for 'punishing media outlets'

Donald Trump is set to be investigated by Congress over whether he used “the instruments of state power” to punish media outlets, a senior Democrat has said.

Adam Schiff, who is expected to chair the House intelligence committee next year, said Democrats plan to probe the Trump administration on two fronts following his party’s gains in the midterm elections.

First, they intend to find out if the president attempted to punish Amazon by pressuring the US Post Office to hike shipping prices for the world’s biggest online retailer.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, owns the ‘Washington Post’ – a newspaper Mr Trump considers a foe and has regularly branded the “Amazon Washington Post”.

“It is very squarely within our responsibility to find out,” Mr Schiff told ‘Axios’ in an interview that aired on Sunday on HBO. He 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 Jeff Bezos and the ‘Washington Post’,” Mr Schiff said. Mr Trump has repeatedly complained Amazon does not pay the US postal service a fair rate for package delivery. He has said, without providing evidence, this costs US taxpayers billions of dollars, and has threatened to raise the company’s postal rates.

The House is also set to investigate the Trump administration’s attempt to block AT&T Inc from acquiring Time Warner, which owns CNN, Mr Schiff said.

Mr Trump has reserved his most strident criticism for the US cable news network, and last week revoked the press pass of its chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

The Justice Department is appealing a federal judge’s approval of the $85.4bn (€76bn) AT&T acquisition of Time Warner. Mr Trump opposed the AT&T-Time Warner merger as a candidate.

It is not clear which committees may probe the corporate issues, since Mr Schiff’s intelligence committee would not have oversight. (© Independent News Service)

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