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Sen. Chris Van Hollen. Photo: Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) has asked U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate whether President Trump "improperly tried to influence" recent media merger reviews, according to a copy of his letter obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: His request follows other requests from Democrats asking for more information after a New Yorker report that the president ordered his former chief of staff and top economic advisor to ensure that the Justice Department sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal.

The details: In the letter to Barr, Van Hollen asked the DOJ to investigate not just whether Trump had meddled in the AT&T deal but if he or White House officials had made "formal or informal inquiries encouraging the Department of Justice to approve or expedite the Disney/Fox merger."

  • Jane Mayer's New Yorker article detailed the close relationship between the White House, Fox News and Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, whose properties compete with Time Warner.
  • Van Hollen said in an interview he wasn't "suggesting that the findings from DOJ in AT&T were wrong" but that it was important "to understand whether or not the White House interfered with the decision."
  • In the letter, he asked that the investigation and subsequent report be made public to the American people "to reassure them of the executive branch’s integrity and your agency’s independence."

Between the lines: Van Hollen's letter joins other requests from Democrats in the House, demanding that the administration provides answers on the same issue.

  • House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) sent letters to DOJ Antitrust Division chief Makan Delrahim and White House counsel Pat Cipollone asking them to produce documents linked to the case.

The big picture: The Democrats, now with a majority in the House, have ramped up investigations into the White House on several fronts.

What's next: At this point, Van Hollen doesn't know how Congress would proceed if its digging unearthed political interference with either deal.

  • Van Hollen says that his Republican colleagues will say privately that they’re broadly concerned about White House interference at the DOJ, "but that doesn’t mean they're willing to do anything about it."

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: It means former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

2 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.