Attorney General William P. Barr has played an unusually active role in the investigation that led to the antitrust lawsuit that the Justice Department filed against Google on Tuesday.
He pushed prosecutors to wrap up their inquiries — and decide whether to bring a case — before Election Day. Most of the roughly 40 lawyers building the case had said they opposed bringing a complaint by Mr. Barr’s Sept. 30 deadline. Some said they would not sign the complaint, and several left the case this summer.
Mr. Barr, a former telecom executive at Verizon who once argued an antitrust case before the Supreme Court, signaled that he would put the tech giants under new scrutiny at his confirmation hearing in early 2019. He said that “a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers.”
Since then he has taken a hands-on approach to the investigation, putting it under the control of his deputy, Jeffrey Rosen, who in turn hired an aide from a major law firm to oversee the case and other technology matters. Mr. Barr’s grip over the case tightened when the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, recused himself from the investigation because he represented Google in its acquisition of the ad service DoubleClick in 2007.
In a blog post, Google called the lawsuit “deeply flawed” and said that it would not help consumers. The Trump administration has attacked Google, which owns YouTube, and other online platform companies as being slanted against conservative views.
The lawsuit is likely to outlast the Trump administration. The Justice Department spent more than a decade taking on Microsoft. The agency filed its lawsuit against the company in 1998 and the settlement was approved in 2002.
While it is possible that a new Democratic administration would review the strategy behind the case, experts said it was unlikely that it would be withdrawn under new leadership.
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