Attorney General William Barr. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Justice Department said Tuesday it had launched an inquiry into the market power of major online platforms and whether they "are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers."

Why it matters: While the announcement mentioned no specific companies, its reference to looking at concerns about "search, social media, and some retail services online" would appear to point towards Google, Facebook and Amazon.

What they're saying: “Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” said Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general who leads the department's Antitrust Division.

Yes, but: The specifics of the inquiry are still unclear. So is its relationship to a reportedly planned Justice Department investigation into Google — part of a broader deal that split up antitrust authority over major tech companies between the agency and the Federal Trade Commission.

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Updated 23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Ted Cruz defends GOP's expected return to prioritizing national debt

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told "Axios on HBO" on Monday that he wishes reining in the national debt was a higher priority for President Trump.

Why it matters: Trump pledged during the 2016 campaign to reduce the national debt and eliminate it entirely within eight years, though he also deemed himself "the king of debt" and said there were some priorities that required spending. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the deficit reached a record $3.1 trillion.

Federal judge blocks DOJ from defending Trump in Carroll rape defamation case

E. Jean Carroll in Warwick, New York. Photo: Eva Deitch for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed the Justice Department's attempted intervention on behalf of President Trump in writer E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit against him, after she accused him of raping her in a dressing room in the mid-1990s.

Catch up quick: The agency argued that Trump was "acting within the scope of his office" as president when he said in 2019 that Carroll was "lying" about her claim.