Sen. Warren & Rep. Jayapal Want Google To Stop Asking For DOJ’s Kanter Recusal

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Pramila Jayapa told Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday, January 5, to stop trying to “bully” Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter into recusal, they shared with CNBC.

“Google should focus on complying with antitrust law rather than attempting to rig the system with these unseemly tactics,” the lawmakers wrote.

Following Kanter’s confirmation in the Senate in November, Google requested the DOJ review whether he should be recused from cases and investigations involving its business. Google cited Kanter’s prior work for its rivals like Yelp in antitrust matters involving its business, and pointed to previous statements about Google’s alleged dominance to argue he’d already made up his mind on its liability.

Related: Google Seeks Recusal From Kantner Over Yelp & Microsoft Cases

Kanter has not committed to recusing himself from matters involving Google, but told lawmakers ahead of his confirmation that he would consult DOJ ethics officials about whether he should do so. A recusal would bar Kanter from involvement in the department’s ongoing antitrust lawsuit against Google and likely any future investigations, though responsibility would fall to his deputies.

Warren and Jayapal wrote that Google’s argument “distorts federal ethics requirements, improperly claiming that because Mr. Kanter has worked to enforce antitrust law against Google in the past, he cannot do so on behalf of the federal government now.”
They wrote that under federal ethics law and regulations, recusal is required when a person has a financial interest involving certain parties, worked for an employer or client in the past two years that is a party in a particular matter, or would be deemed potentially impartial by a reasonable person with the relevant facts.

The Democrats said that since Kanter has not represented Google or the US, the two parties that would be named in any federal lawsuit against Google, that should not be a basis for his recusal.

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