House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Representative David Cicilline, who chairs a subcommittee on antitrust issues, said in a joint statement late on Monday the probe of Ford Motor Co (F.N), Honda Motor Co (7267.T), BMW AG (BMWG.DE), and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) "is only the latest in a profoundly troubling pattern of abuse of power that has flourished under the Trump presidency."
The Justice Department declined to comment. The White House did not immediately comment. The automakers did not immediately comment.
The two House Democrats added "there is virtually no antitrust theory that the Justice Department can use to prove that this agreement will unreasonably restrain trade or otherwise violate the antitrust laws."
Reuters and other outlets reported Friday the existence of the investigation as the Trump administration has ramped up its opposition to automakers seeking to sidestep it on rolling back Obama-era fuel-efficiency rules.
The antitrust division sent Aug. 28 letters to the four automakers saying the government was concerned the agreement "may violate federal antitrust laws" but adding it had "reached no conclusions," according to documents seen by Reuters.
In July, the four automakers said they had reached a deal to adopt standards that were lower than Obama-era rules but higher than the Trump administration's 2018 proposal.
The automakers were defying the Trump administration's effort to strip California of the right to fight climate change by setting its own standards.