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By: Ronn Blitzer of FOX News

A former police officer made a bold proclamation during a congressional hearing Wednesday regarding a proposed assault-weapons ban: she would not comply.

Dianna Muller, who served in the Tulsa Police Department for 22 years and is the founder of gun advocacy group The DC Project, was among the witnesses at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. The session on an otherwise contentious issue flew largely under the radar amid the Trump-Ukraine controversy and Democrats' impeachment push. But reflecting the gun control divide in the country -- amid a spate of deadly mass shootings that prompted renewed calls for strict laws -- Muller said that such a ban would force lawful gun owners to either give up their arms or become criminals.

"Please don't legislate the 150 million people just like me into being criminals. It has happened. You've already done it," Muller said, referring to the Trump administration's ban on bump stocks, the devices that use a semi-automatic weapon's recoil to make it rapidly fire like an automatic. "I was a bump stock owner, and I had to make a decision: do I become a felon, or do I comply?"

Should the government pass an assault-weapons ban, Muller declared, "I will not comply."

Muller and others at the hearing focused on the practicality of a ban, pointing out what they claimed were mainly "cosmetic" differences between weapons such as the AR-15 and standard semi-automatic hunting rifles. This issue was also raised by Heritage Foundation senior legal policy analyst Amy Swearer when Rep.Jim  Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., went down the line of witnesses asking if they believed hunting rifles should be banned if they are semi-automatic.

Swearer said no, stating that there was no difference in the mechanics or function of an "assault weapon" or a semi-automatic hunting rifle. Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley, who recalled the recent mass shooting in her city, did not give a definitive answer to Sensenbrenner's question, nor did Dr. Alejandro Rios Tovar, a trauma surgeon who treated victims of the attack in El Paso, Texas. Charlottesville, Va., Chief of Police RaShall Brackney indicated she was in favor of a ban on "any weapon that could be used to hunt individuals."

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., countered the idea of a hunting rifle ban by referring to his assault-weapon ban bill. Cicilline said that more than 200 weapons are exempt from the bill, so there is really no issue of eliminating hunting rifles.

Swearer also testified against the idea that law-abiding citizens have no need for weapons like AR-15s, recalling how her mother, a gun novice, had difficulty accurately firing a handgun at a shooting range, but was much more effective when she used an AR-15.

"As I read the Second Amendment, it doesn't say the right to bear arms shall not be infringed unless the gun has scary features," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said.

Swearer also noted that some features like barrel shrouds enhance the safety of a weapon for its user. But David Chipman, senior policy adviser at the Giffords Law Center, raised a counterpoint noting that a barrel shroud could allow a shooter to get a better grip on a weapon "in a way that would increase your ability to spray fire and kill more people" without burning their hand.

One feature that was a concern for House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is the ability for some weapons to be used with high-capacity magazines that allow users to fire dozens of rounds without reloading.

Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, testified in agreement with Nadler that a ban on such magazines, along with a clear definition of "assault weapon" that would eliminate loopholes under the 1994 crime law, would be effective.

Congress and the Trump administration have been in talks for weeks regarding possible gun legislation, but discussion of taking away guns that are currently legal has led to criticism from both parties. After 2020 Democratic hopeful Beto O'Rourke declared during a debate, "Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15, AK-47," Cicilline said, "That message doesn't help." President Trump said that O'Rourke was making it "much harder" to reach a deal on gun legislation with that sort of rhetoric.

Trump's focus when it comes to gun control has mainly been on background checks. The White House was also circulating a one-page document on Capitol Hill detailing a possible gun background-check proposal that would require private sellers – not just licensed vendors – to conduct background checks for all advertised sales, though Attorney General Bill Barr said Trump has not yet made a “firm decision” on what he ultimately will support.

An August USA Today poll showed that most American voters support increased background checks, with 85 percent of Republican voters supporting background checks for all gun sales. Presently, only federally licensed vendors are required to conduct background checks, allowing private individuals to sell without them under what has been referred to as the "gun show loophole."

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News last week that he expected an announcement on new gun legislation “very soon.” Gidley said Trump wanted to make sure that any new laws would address actual problems and not just be “feel-good legislation.”

But the Democrats' impeachment push could complicate matters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had resisted impeachment, announced Tuesday that an impeachment inquiry would be launched. Reflecting how policy debates could take a back seat, Pelosi said in private meetings with lawmakers that Trump called her to discuss gun legislation, but she soon changed the subject to his phone call with the Ukrainian president in which they discussed investigating Joe Biden, which stoked the latest calls for impeachment.

By: Cearron Bagenda of CBS 58

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

The move comes after Trump admitted he pushed a foreign government to investigate unfounded claims about a 2020 campaign rival. President Trump dismissed the announcement over Twitter Tuesday, calling it "witch hunt garbage."

Reaction to the impeachment inquiry was swift.

Impeachment is a political process, not a judicial one that's carried out in courtrooms. For each step forward, there have to be votes, and those votes would include our Wisconsin congressional leaders.

The first vote would be impeachment, and that would be in the House of Representatives. 

Jim Sensenbrenner, the Republican rep from Menomonee Falls, said that Democrats have always looked for alleged impeachable offenses with President Trump. Sensenbrenner expects the upcoming investigation to tarnish Congress's credibility and further divide the country.

On the other side of the aisle, Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison, says the President admitted to breaking the law, violated his oath of office, and the time for impeachment is long overdue. If it does come to a vote, Democrats have the numbers in the House to impeach.

"From the House of Representatives perspective, to say we're not just going to do whatever the President says -- this impeachment inquiry is a big check, one of the powers that we have in the Constitution to push back on the President," said Marquette University political science professor Paul Nolette.

If impeachment were to pass the house, it would then take two-thirds of the Senate to actually remove the President from office.

Looking at the numbers of Democrats versus Republicans, the conclusion to draw is that it would be unlikely to happen.

CBS 58 took our cameras to the streets to ask voters in Milwaukee what they thought of Speaker Pelosi's announcement.

Some say they're not too surprised after hearing the announcement, and agree with Nancy Pelosi's statement that 'no one is above the law.' They say it's a long time coming, and everybody should be looked into.

"He’s running the show,  and it’s a circus, and the average American needs help. If this is the first step to addressing the average American, then God bless Nancy Pelosi,” said voter Jonathan Strickland.

Others believe president Trump's decision-making has been beneficial for American businesses, and that he doesn't necessarily deserve to be impeached.

"The reason that Trump was elected is strictly for one reason, business -- period. People that are business owners are scared that they’re not going to be represented," said small business owner Aaron Anders.

"I see it from both sides. I see it from the business side, he has done a lot you know, his mouth just gets him in trouble,” said voter Josiah Dawson. “I can see it from the other side too, where all the things that’s happening with Ukraine and stuff I just believe it’s about time.”

Some believe the country should shift their focus off of the impeachment.

"I think we should spend our energy on the next election, not so much the impeachment," said voter Aaron Dolan.

While there are many differing opinions, a majority of voters seem to agree that leaders need to do a better job of unifying the country.

By; Craig Gilbert and Molly Beck of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WASHINGTON - With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing Tuesday that Democrats will launch an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, the partisan divide between Wisconsin’s federal lawmakers remained mostly intact amid a rush of rapidly shifting developments.

On the GOP side, impeachment appears to have no support among current House Republicans from Wisconsin (or any other state). No GOP lawmakers from Wisconsin have publicly criticized the president over the issue that prompted Pelosi's decision — the news that Trump urged the leader of Ukraine in a phone call to investigate a major political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, and his son.    

"Speaker Pelosi’s comments today do not change the state of play," said Jim Sensenbrenner, the veteran Wisconsin Republican who will retire after next year.

"The Democrats have been searching for any alleged 'impeachable' offense since the beginning of the Trump presidency. I expect the Judiciary Committee and others will continue their partisan investigations, tarnishing Congress’ credibility and further dividing the country,” Sensenbrenner said.

But in a sign of the growing Democratic support for impeachment, Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who had not previously endorsed an impeachment inquiry, said: 

"The House is taking appropriate action in response to the Trump administration’s refusal to follow the law and provide this whistleblower complaint and Inspector General report to Congress, which has a constitutional responsibility to get all the facts and provide oversight of the executive branch." 

House Democrat Mark Pocan said in an interview that, "the president in this case not only broke the law by asking a foreign government to manufacture evidence against a political opponent, he’s also openly admitted it, which puts us in a very different territory. ... In this case it’s crystal clear by his own admission.”

Pocan and fellow House Democrat Gwen Moore were already on the record backing an impeachment inquiry long before the Ukraine story surfaced. 

Moore said in a statement Tuesday that Trump's call to the Ukranian president was an act of "lawlessness."

"An impeachment inquiry is proper, timely and necessary," she said.

Wisconsin's third House Democrat, Ron Kind, has criticized the president’s conduct in the past but stopped short of supporting an impeachment inquiry.

In a statement Tuesday night, Kind indicated he supported an investigation of the whistleblower complaint behind the Ukraine developments but nowhere used the word "impeachment." 

Said Kind:

"The reports of a whistleblower complaint alleging that the president actively coerced a foreign government to meddle in our election are extremely concerning. The administration must hand over the whistleblower report, as required by law, so Congress can investigate these claims as part of its constitutional duties. As a former special prosecutor, I know no one is above the law — not even the president.”  

While Pocan and Moore represent heavily Democratic seats, Kind represents a rural, swing western Wisconsin district that voted for the Republican Trump by 4 points for president in 2016 — after backing Democrat Barack Obama by 11 points in 2012.

There are four Republicans representing Wisconsin in the House, since a fifth Republican, Sean Duffy, retired effective Monday.

GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher, who represents northeast Wisconsin, said it's premature to talk about impeachment because Congress hasn't seen the transcript of the call with the Ukrainian president or heard from intelligence officials. He did not dismiss the Democrats' concerns as some of his colleagues have.

"Media speculation is an insufficient cause to begin impeachment," he said in a statement. "I’m glad the President is making the transcript public, I'm looking forward to hearing Acting Director (Joseph) Maguire's testimony this week, and I hope the full whistleblower report is also released to the appropriate Congressional committees.”

Sensenbrenner, the state’s senior Republican, defended Trump when asked about the Ukraine developments at a town hall meeting Saturday in Wauwatosa. While many Democrats contend the fact that Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Biden was by itself damning, Sensenbrenner said that it would have to be clear that Trump offered Ukraine a “quid pro quo” to cause him consternation.    

“From what we know now, Trump did nothing wrong. And he did nothing wrong because he did not offer a quid pro quo to the president of Ukraine for any of this information.”

In a separate interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before the town hall meeting, Sensenbrenner said of Trump’s conversation with the leader of Ukraine:

“I would feel differently if there was a quid pro quo involved on that, but merely to find out if Hunter Biden (Joe Biden's son) was violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Asking the new president of Ukraine, who ran on an anti-corruption platform, to look into that, I do not think was out of bounds.”

Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have been pushing Ukraine to investigate Burisma Group, a Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board of directors.

U.S. Rep Bryan Steil of Janesville said Pelosi was engaging in "political theater" but did not directly comment on the allegations or whether impeachment was needed.

"If Speaker Pelosi wanted to officially begin an impeachment inquiry, she would have brought a resolution to the House floor for a vote," he said in a statement. "We must focus on the issues impacting Americans — our $22 trillion national debt, the rising costs of health care, and job creation for families and workers. Let’s end this circus and get to work.”

Republican congressional candidates in Wisconsin sided with Trump.

 “This is yet another Democrat distraction from the left’s failure to get anything done in Washington,” state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who is seeking to replace Sensenbrenner in the 5th Congressional District, said in a statement.

“While President Trump is working to deliver on his promises to the American people, D.C. Democrats continue to spend all their time focused on finding excuses for these drawn-out impeachment threats, instead of the issues that average Americans in places like WI care about,” Fitzgerald said.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, who is running in the Trump-friendly 7th Congressional District for the seat vacated by Duffy, called on Democrats to stop their “endless witch hunts.”

“The radical Democrats controlling Congress are more intent on undermining our president than they are about enacting a trade deal that our country desperately needs,” he said.

Aides to Jason Church, a Republican who is also running in the 7th Congressional District, did not immediately answer questions.

Tom Palzewicz, a Democrat seeking a seat in the 5th Congressional District held by Sensenbrenner, said he would support impeachment if indeed a transcript of the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows the U.S. president pressured a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

“The purpose of the impeachment process is designed as a check and balance on the president's potential abuse of power. There are certainly grounds for an investigation and the American people and their elected leaders deserve to know all the facts,” Palzewicz said.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who defeated Trump ally Scott Walker in 2018, sidestepped the question of whether House members should pursue impeachment.

“I don't make any decisions on that. I'm focused on Wisconsin. Clearly, I follow it in the news, but that's for the people that are in Washington D.C., and their constituents here in Wisconsin to figure out,” he said Tuesday. “Clearly, it's something that gives me concern because things, when (they) kind of take us off the rail as far as moving forward, we have to find a way to move forward as a nation and so hopefully there will be some resolution soon."

Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday but has said he thought it would be a bad idea for the president to release a transcript of his call with the leader of Ukraine, calling it a bad precedent.

The GOP-controlled U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday that the whistleblower complaint be sent to the Intelligence Committee, a step the White House has balked at.  

The president, meanwhile, said Tuesday he would authorize the release Wednesday of the full transcript of his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. 

By: Henry Redman of the Daily Jefferson County Union

WHITEWATER — From the get-go, attendees at U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s town hall in meeting in Whitewater Sunday night were challenging him on issues that have dominated news cycles in recent months.

The meeting with the 5th District Republican congressman began with questions from multiple members of Moms Demand Action — an organization that fights for stricter regulation of guns. A large majority of people in attendance were members of the group.

The discussion then moved to potential proposals to fight climate change and finally ended with a very heated back-and-forth over a whistleblower complaint from the Intelligence Community Inspector General reportedly about President Donald Trump.

“Well, you’ve let the partisan cat out of the bag,” Sensenbrenner said early on in the night.

On gun control, members of Moms Demand Action asked the congressman about closing loopholes, red flag laws and strengthening background checks. Some said they were gun owners themselves and just wanted something done about the gun violence impacting lives — not just from mass shootings — every day.

Sensenbrenner said his record shows he’s willing to support legislation that effectively curbs gun violence and isn’t just a show for the cameras. He repeatedly brought up his support of the creation of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which prevents people with criminal backgrounds from buying firearms.

“As far as any background-check legislation, I want to see if any of the proposed changes would’ve stopped any of the mass shootings,” Sensenbrenner said. “If that is not the case, then we’ve passed a piece of paper that is ineffective. Which have been a lot of the gun-control measures that have been considered during my time in Congress.”

Sensenbrenner was a co-sponsor of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that established the NICS system.

“In 1993, I was the father of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The gun-control lobby has never given me credit for that,” Sensenbrenner said. “Because I have an A rating from the NRA, they think I’m a bad guy.”

Moms Demand Action members asked Sensenbrenner about expanding the already existing background check laws. He responded by saying he wants to make sure a person’s right to due process of law isn’t infringed by taking away their guns.

“I’m not opposed in principle to red flag laws, but I’m insistent upon the red flag law recognizing due process,” Sensenbrenner said. “It seems to me that if we’re taking people’s constitutional rights away — for cause — they ought to be able to tell their story to a judge and let a judge make a determination based upon the evidence in front of them.”

Jenny Rule, a Whitewater resident and member of Moms Demand Action, pressured Sensenbrenner for answers on his voting record and possible next steps for curbing gun violence.

“40,000 lives lost to gun violence in 2017,” Rule said. “I don’t think you’re a bad guy, but I think we can do better.”

Sensenbrenner, who said he lives much closer to Milwaukee’s gun violence than any of the Whitewater residents in attendance, also said repeat gun offenders need to be given stricter treatment.

“One of the problems is the DA’s office is not prosecuting repeat gun violence offenders; they decided it’s not worth their time,” Sensenbrenner said. “Those are the people we have to get off the street, particularly the repeat offenders. Unless we have judges and prosecutors — both of whom are elected in this state — actually giving sentences to people who ought to be taken off the street, we’re not going to solve this problem.”

From the discussion on gun control reforms, the topic at the town hall moved to addressing climate change. Sensenbrenner was asked if there are any solutions to climate change that have an actual chance of being passed through congress.

The congressman said he currently is not on any committees that directly address the changing climate, but that when he was on the Science Committee, he tried to pass laws that would help research into the issue and, in turn, help create jobs while fighting climate change.

“I supported adequate basic research funding for scientific agencies such as the National Science Foundation, NASA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” Sensenbrenner said. “I was basically opposed to putting government money into applied research, because that was the government picking winners and losers. What the private sector ought to do is put their own money at risk on successful basic research and commercialize and create a lot of American jobs and make a lot of money as a result.”

Sensenbrenner backed away from any steps further than funding research because he said he didn’t want the government to overreach.

“Government overregulation is a job killer,” Sensenbrenner said.

The discussion on gun control reforms and climate change remained mostly civil. But tempers flared when a constituent asked about a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump from a member of the national intelligence community.

Trump has sought, without evidence, to implicate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Although the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

The matter is under new scrutiny following the whistleblower’s mid-August complaint, which followed Trump’s July 25th call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The person who filed the complaint did not have firsthand knowledge of the call, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Lawmakers are demanding details of the complaint, but the acting director of national intelligence has refused to share that information, citing presidential privilege.

While Washington was consumed with the complaint during the weekend, back in Whitewater, Sensenbrenner attempted to downplay the issue. He said Trump has the full right to cite executive privilege and not turn over any information about the call or the complaint.

“We should not have presidents or executive agencies such as the FBI rummaging around congressional files and I think the opposite is the case, too, that we should not have Congress rummaging around presidential files that are covered by executive privilege,” Sensenbrenner said.

After saying that the complaint and call are covered by executive privilege, Sensenbrenner turned the issue to the other side of the aisle and said this debate might bring down Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, even though there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president.

“Get your foot off the gas pedal on this,” Sensenbrenner said. “I would advise you that you may have buyer’s remorse the way this ends up. Because of the Biden matter being out there, this has got the potential of destroying his candidacy.”

Sensenbrenner’s next town hall meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19, at 10 a.m. at the Waukesha City Hall.

By: Austin Koltonowski of Jurist

Federal lawmakers on Thursday proposed a bill that would require companies to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy in a courtroom close to their principal place of business, rather than where they are incorporated.

The bipartisan bill, called the Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act of 2019, hopes to spread bankruptcy cases throughout the US to ensure that employees, small businesses and local employees are able to fully and fairly participate in the proceedings.

Current federal law allows companies to file for bankruptcy protection either where they are incorporated or where they operate much smaller affiliates. Most often, bankruptcy cases have been decided in either Delaware or New York. Supporters of the existing law argue that the experienced judges in popular venues like Delaware can better handle complicated issues.

Delaware Governor John Carney reiterated that companies from around the country choose to incorporate in Delaware specifically because of the expertise and experience of Delawares judges, attorneys and business leaders.

Experienced bankruptcy courts and judges are critical to ensuring that restructurings preserve the underlying businesses and save jobs. Altering the venue laws that have been in place for decades and replacing them with restrictions undermines well-settled principles of corporate law, threatens jobs, and hurts our economy.

Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the bill.

By; Bill Glauber of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

TOWN OF BROOKFIELD - He's been saluted by colleagues, thanked by voters and jokingly vowed that in his final months in office he'll be "more unhinged and more tart."

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner isn't going quietly.

Less than two weeks after announcing he will retire from the House of Representatives at the end of this term, Sensenbrenner was back on the town hall circuit Saturday, handling constituent concerns and fielding questions on an array of issues.

"My term doesn't expire until January 2021," he said. "I have always been one who has asked for input from my constituents."

Sensenbrenner was politely received by an overflow audience at the Brookfield Town Hall.

Even those who disagreed with the congressman thanked him for taking their questions. The issues ranged from climate change to immigration and whether President Donald Trump has violated the emoluments clause that bars elected officials from profiting from foreign governments.

That last subject got an emphatic "no," from Sensenbrenner, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978.

During town halls, Sensenbrenner usually shares the dais with local legislators. In this case, it was Democratic state Rep. Robyn Vining of Wauwatosa who sat beside him. 

She was 2 years old when Sensenbrenner first went to Congress.

Vining said it was "fun" to watch Sensenbrenner at work and appreciated his willingness to give people a chance to ask questions, even if he disagreed with them.

"We need more politicians who will let people finish their questions," she said.

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sensenbrenner said he was "at peace" with his decision to leave Congress.

"I wanted to retire on my own terms," he said.

After he leaves Congress, Sensenbrenner said he will still be in Wisconsin but plans to spend most of his time in the Washington, D.C., area, where his wife, Cheryl, lives in a nursing home. She suffered a stroke 5½ years ago.

Plenty of Republicans are considering making a run for the seat but Sensenbrenner said he will hold off on making an endorsement, "at least until the Republican endorsing convention next March."

Although no one has jumped into the GOP race, those looking at it include state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald; state Sen. Chris Kapenga; former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson; state Rep. Adam Neylon; state Rep. Scott Allen; former Gov. Scott Walker's son, Matt Walker; and former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann's son, Matt Neumann.

Democrat Tom Palzewicz, who challenged Sensenbrenner in 2018, plans to run again.

Sensenbrenner said candidates should "see what the job entails," and said being a congressman can be "toxic to family life."

During the town hall, he was asked what the most pressing issues facing the country are and he quickly responded: "The deficit and national debt."

"That's nothing that's going to be fixed in the next 15½ months before the current term expires. So whoever replaces me, I hope they will become a deficit hawk," he said.

Asked what attributes voters should look for in his successor, Sensenbrenner said he hoped people would look at the "background and experience" of the candidates.

"I think their stance on the issues is very important," he said. "I think who hires the most clever ad agency to put ads up on TV is not important."

He said candidates will have to "get around and be present."

"People like to see what they're being asked to vote for," he said. "So let's see who decides to come out and let all of us see him or her."

By: FOX6

BROOKFIELD — He may be retiring but his term isn’t over yet and there’s still work to be done. Longtime Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner held another one of his town hall meetings on Saturday, Sept. 14 in Brookfield.

The Waukesha County Republican served in the House for the past 40 years.

He holds about 100 town halls each year; something this constituents say they appreciate.

“It really brings him personally to you so that you feel that you are being heard and you’re able to bypass some of the beauracracy by being in the same room and not just talking on the telephone or via email,” said Sandra Rebiger, constituent.

Sensenbrenner won’t be seeking re-election at the end of his term in Jan. 2021. In his time in office, he’s sponsored or co-sponsored nearly 4,300 bills with more than 200 of them being signed into law.

By: Ryan Tracy of the Wall Street Journal

Congress opened a new front in the government’s antitrust probe of giant technology firms, with House lawmakers on Friday demanding emails and other records from some of the industry’s top chief executives as they look for evidence of anticompetitive behavior.

The requests from House Judiciary Committee leaders from both parties to Inc., AMZN 0.65% Facebook Inc., FB 2.74% Apple Inc. AAPL 0.85% and Alphabet Inc., GOOG 0.95% owner of Google, set up potential conflicts between tech leaders protective of their business tactics and lawmakers who want to scour their corporate records.

Among other requests, the committee asked the firms to provide by Oct. 14 reams of documents, including executive communications and financial statements as well as information about competitors, market share, mergers and key business decisions.

The dozens of executives named in the requests include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google’s early leaders Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt.

The companies are likely to resist such carte blanche access, which could set in motion negotiations with the House committee over the scope of materials provided, said William Kovacic, former chair of the Federal Trade Commission.

“If you want everything, everything will take a long time,” said Mr. Kovacic, who is now a George Washington University professor. The next step will be “intense negotiations between the companies and the committee about what will be produced,” he said.

The House committee isn’t subpoenaing the records, though it has the authority to do so—a fact that gives lawmakers a stick they can use in negotiations over access.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said the requests will aid an investigation, begun on June 3, into “growing evidence that a handful of corporations have come to capture an outsized share of online commerce and communications.”

“This information is key in helping determine whether anticompetitive behavior is occurring,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R., Ga.), the panel’s top Republican. The letters were also signed by Reps. David Cicilline (D., R.I.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.), the two senior members of the panel’s subcommittee on antitrust issues.

The companies didn’t comment Friday. All four firms have previously said they provide significant benefits to consumers and face significant competition. They have expressed willingness to work with authorities.

The congressional probe adds to scrutiny of the tech giants, which already face a broad antitrust review by the Justice Department that could lead to formal investigations. The department has asked Google for information about previous antitrust probes by other agencies.

The Federal Trade Commission, the other top U.S. antitrust enforcer, has opened an investigation of Facebook, with an early focus on its key acquisitions, and is questioning third-party sellers who use Amazon’s marketplace. FTC Chair Joseph Simons declined to comment Friday on the House letters.

State attorneys general from both parties recently launched probes of Google, with an early focus on its advertising business, and Facebook. Authorities in other countries are also investigating. Officials have said they would work together on the overlapping probes, although the extent of that cooperation isn’t known.

U.S. sanctions against the companies, if they come at all, are likely to be years away and imposed by federal or state enforcers rather than Congress. Lawmakers can find facts and change laws, but not bring enforcement actions.

The House probe represents a threat to the firms, even if it doesn’t result in changes to antitrust laws. Documents released to lawmakers could become public and serve as justification to summon top executives to high-profile hearings. That would create risks to the companies’ reputations and could fuel political pressure for a regulatory crackdown.

The House panel’s detailed information requests also provide hints as to how authorities could try to build an antitrust case against the firms:

—The request to Alphabet targets 24 products and services, from advertising technology to YouTube and the Waze navigation app, seeking executives’ communications regarding acquisitions and how other businesses interact with Google’s own services.

—The lawmakers asked Amazon to provide executive communications related to product searches on and the pricing of Amazon Prime as well as fees charged to sellers.

—Apple was asked for executives’ emails about search rankings in its App Store, whether Apple has discussed copying some third-party apps and the company’s policy on requiring that apps use Apple’s payment systems for purchases, an issue raised by Spotify Technology SA in an antitrust complaint in Europe. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Apple routinely lists apps ahead of competitors though the company’s apps skirt its own rules for rankings.

Apple, which takes a 30% cut from most apps it sells, has said the App Store encourages competition and that its cut is justified by the work its staff does reviewing apps to protect consumers from malware or other threats. Its apps account for a small fraction of those available on the store, and it collects money from only 16% of the 2 million apps available.

—Facebook received questions about its executives’ discussions around the acquisitions of WhatsApp, Instagram, and the data-security app Onavo, as well as decisions related to which third-party apps access its social-media platform.

Big tech companies have ramped up spending to influence the new antitrust discourse, as well as other policy debates, none more so than Google. It is a funder of at least 33 nonprofit groups that are active in the antitrust debate across the political spectrum, according to its public policy transparency reports.

Google is also a financial supporter of minority lawmaker groups such as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. It has given substantial sums to state attorneys general groups over the last decade or so, including more than $450,000 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association and more than $250,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, according to data gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Its Google NetPAC contributed about $1.9 million to federal candidates and committees in the 2017-2018 election cycle, according to federal data, compared with about $1.8 million for Amazon’s PAC and about $721,000 for Facebook’s. Amazon leads the group in spending for the 2020 election to date. Apple doesn’t have a PAC.

Amazon in 2017 gave $12,500 each to the Democratic and Republican attorneys general associations. For 2018 it bumped that up to $50,000 each

Staffers on the Judiciary Committee are simultaneously dealing with other time-consuming issues, most notably potential impeachment proceedings. That said, the bipartisan nature of Friday’s letters reflects broad support for the probe.

“Bipartisan consensus sends a clear statement to regulators that this isn’t just one side’s sour grapes,” said Paul Gallant, an analyst at Cowen Inc.

Mr. Gallant noted that internal emails discussing stifling competition at Microsoft Corp. became an issue during that firm’s time under the antitrust microscope two decades ago.

“This is Congress’ backstage pass. They will be able to see what company management said privately about the way they designed their business and about whether that was actually anti-competitive,” Mr. Gallant said.

Congress has a history of going after emails, although those from top-level executives tend to be less revelatory because cautious higher-ranking people typically send few such online communications, investigators have found. In 2010, Senate investigators released an email from then-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein in which he appeared to acknowledge that the firm dodged a bullet in the financial crisis by betting on a market decline through taking “short” positions.

But generally, emails from lower-level employees have led to more criticism. A 2010 probe of the BP PLC oil spill made headlines when a lower-level employee said in an email “who cares” about a shortage of parts on a drilling rig before it exploded. In the General Motors Co. ignition-switch crisis, the company pinned the blame largely on a single engineer who received emails warning him of problems.

This isn’t the first time that Congress has probed whether large tech companies are stifling competition. In 2011, the Senate Judiciary Committee hauled Mr. Schmidt, former Google Inc. executive chairman, for questioning related to whether the company was abusing its dominance of online searches by steering users toward its own services at the expense of rivals. But he emerged largely unscathed, and amid a weak recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression, Congress had little appetite to pursue a probe into a driver of the U.S. economy.

By: Lauren Feiner of CNBC

Leaders of the House Judiciary Committee requested documents from AmazonAppleFacebook and Google parent company Alphabet as part of an antitrust probe, the committee announced Friday.

Among other information, the committee requested executives’ emails related to competition matters and documents provided to U.S. and international regulators from the past 10 years related to the Clayton Act, which deals with reviewing potentially anticompetitive mergers, according to a press release.

Shares of Facebook and Amazon were slightly negative by the end of trading Friday and Alphabet was slightly positive. Apple shares ended the day down 1.9% after Goldman Sachs cut its price target for the stock.

The request shows the committee is ramping up an antitrust review as federal regulators and attorneys general from 50 states and territories are prepping their own probes. In letters to chief executives of the four companies, the bipartisan group of committee leaders said the investigation will focus on three elements. The first is “competition problems in digital markets,” followed by “whether dominant firms are engaging in anti-competitive conduct online” and finally, whether current laws and enforcement can effectively deal with these issues.

Tech executives testified in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust in July, but the subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said lawmakers still need more information.

“I appreciate the willingness of certain tech companies to come before our committee and answer questions,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement. “However, we still need more information about their business practices at this fact-finding stage of this investigation.”

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) said the committee is not approaching the probe “with an agenda.”

“The important part is, what we see is, this is not, from my position, as an attack,” Collins said. “This is questioning of normal oversight into the marketplace to say, ‘what is going on, and [are] our antitrust laws working or is there something we need to look at?’”

Based on the documents requested, committee leaders seem to be honing in on Facebook’s acquisitions, including Instagram, WhatsApp and web analytics company Onavo. Lawmakers asked to see discussions by executives of the potential competitive threats these services could pose to Facebook around the time of the deals.

On Amazon, the lawmakers want to learn more about how the company’s algorithm accounts for its own products and the type of data available and withheld from sellers on its marketplace. The committee also asked to see discussions related to how teams across Amazon’s various divisions, including Amazon Web Services, Amazon Marketplace and its voice product Alexa, share and use data. Lawmakers also asked for executive communications related to Amazon’s acquisitions, including Ring, PillPack and Audible.

Lawmakers also want to learn more about Google’s thinking around its acquisitions of DoubleClick, YouTube, Android and others. They asked for information related to Google’s advertising business, which is also the initial focus of the probe by state attorneys general. Lawmakers asked to view discussions around Google’s calculations related to payments for ads, including ad click-through-rates. They also asked about the “prevalence of ad fraud” on its ad tech services.

The committee leaders also requested information about differences in the way Google treats its own products like its browser and apps compared to those of competitors. Similar to Amazon, lawmakers also want to know how Google teams from different divisions share and use data, based on the requests in the letter.

On Apple, lawmakers asked for information related to the algorithm for its App Store and how it could be modified. Developers have previously speculated that Apple favors its own apps in its App Store over those of competitors. A New York Times review of the App Store algorithm published earlier this week found Apple apps for certain searches would rank above apps from competitors, even when the Apple apps were clearly less relevant. Apple tweaked the algorithms to change that result, according to the Times, but two executives denied to the publication that the previous version of the algorithm had been a problem.

They also requested to see discussions around Apple’s policies around including in-app links to outside payment systems and its revenue-share policy for in-app purchases. Apple’s payment model for app developers, commonly referred to by critics as “the Apple tax,” has been a key source of concern for companies like Spotify which has argued to European competition regulators that Apple advantages its own products through the fees.

Reached for comment, a Google spokesperson pointed to a week-old blog post from the company’s senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker.

“We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so,” Walker said in the post.

Amazon declined to comment. Apple and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

By: Cristiano Lima of Politico

House Judiciary lawmakers today unleashed a torrent of document requests on Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google parent company Alphabet aimed at uncovering whether the tech companies have unfairly stifled competitors.

In a series of letters to the companies’ CEOs, Judiciary leaders demanded that the firms disclose all documents related to any foreign and domestic investigations into their conduct and that they release emails by key executives dealing with specific competition concerns.

The far-reaching requests for information, known as RFIs, are the latest escalation of the committee’s wide-ranging antitrust investigation of the tech sector.

“We made it clear when we launched this bipartisan investigation that we plan to get all the facts we need to diagnose the problems in the digital marketplace,” said House Judiciary Antitrust Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.), whose panel is leading the probe.

"Today’s document requests are an important milestone in this investigation as we work to obtain the information that our Members need to make this determination," he said.

Committee leaders — including Cicilline, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) — also called on the companies to disclose financial statements for their products, internal organizational charts and lists of firms they have identified as market competitors.

The action comes amid mounting antitrust scrutiny for the tech industry’s most powerful companies. Attorneys general from 50 states and territories on Monday unveiled a bipartisan antitrust investigation of Google’s dominance in search and digital advertising, days after another grouping of state AGs announced a separate investigation into Facebook.

Silicon Valley’s largest companies also face mounting scrutiny at the federal level, with both the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department probing potential anti-competitive conduct by top firms.