Drivers in Los Angeles in September 2019. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department has dropped its antitrust inquiry into four major automakers — Ford, VW, Honda and BMW — that struck a deal with California to boost emissions standards in defiance of White House plans to relax existing rules, the New York Times reported Friday and Axios later confirmed.

The big picture, via Axios' Amy Harder: This is a victory for California in a war against the Trump administration on multiple legal and policy fronts. Another one we're watching is how the administration's lawsuit against California's cornerstone climate policy shakes out.

Details: California and the auto companies' efforts to tighten carbon emissions standards could improve with the DOJ's decision to drop its probe, the Times reports. BMW and Ford confirmed to Axios that the DOJ had dropped its antitrust inquiry.

  • The DOJ opened an investigation into the automakers to discern whether they violated antitrust laws by working together to reach a deal with California on emissions standards.

Where it stands: The Trump administration is moving to substantially weaken Obama-era carbon emissions and mileage rules for model years 2021-2026.

  • The administration had initially proposed freezing the standards.
  • The final rule will reportedly include some increases, but less than the Obama-era standards and what California had envisioned in its preliminary deal with the four automakers.

What to watch, via the Times: "The closure may mark something of a détente in the political battle between the White House and California."

Go deeper: Justice Dept. probes carmakers in California emissions deal

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