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Photo: Ken Ross/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

President Trump is pulling out all the stops to shut down an effort by California to enlist automakers on a plan that would undermine his administration’s effort to roll back strict Obama-era carbon emissions and mileage mandates.

Where it stands: The Justice Department is seeking to determine if Ford, VW, Honda and BMW "violated federal competition law by agreeing with each other to follow tailpipe-emissions standards beyond those proposed by the Trump administration," WSJ reports.

  • The story cites anonymous sources familiar with the matter. DOJ declined to comment. Ford, Honda and BMW said they will cooperate with DOJ on the matter.
  • VW couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

On a second front, lawyers for the EPA and the Transportation Department on Thursday warned Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, of legal action if the state tries to set its own rules "that would violate federal law."

Why it matters: The 2-pronged attack stands to escalate tensions between Washington, Sacramento and the auto industry over Trump's plan to freeze emissions standards at 2022 levels, rather than allow them to climb sharply higher.

  • By targeting the 4 companies that signed the California deal to make cleaner cars, the administration aims to dissuade more automakers from joining.
  • GM, whose CEO met with Trump on Thursday, is not likely to sign on to the California plan, sources tell Axios.

The Trump administration is cranking up the heat. Multiple reports on Thursday said that the EPA will soon move to revoke California's authority to set its own vehicle pollution rules, Axios' Ben Geman writes.

The bottom line: The administration appears to be taking no chances that California's attempted end run gains momentum while it finalizes its own, looser requirement.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
52 mins ago - World

Global press freedom deteriorates amid pandemic

Data: Reporters Without Borders; Chart: Axios Visuals

Journalism is seriously restricted in 132 of 180 countries included in Reporters without Borders' annual Press Freedom Index — a particularly dangerous state of affairs during the pandemic.

Breaking it down: Nordic countries are ranked high on the list for having "good" press freedoms, while China, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea are at the bottom. The U.S. is ranked 44th.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How anti-greed backlash killed the European Super League

Photo: David Cliff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The 48-hour rise and fall of the European Super League is the perfect encapsulation of how anti-greed sentiment has changed the rules of capitalism.

Why it matters: The highly-complex structures of capitalism are built from the mostly base motivations of individuals chasing money. That's been condemned and celebrated in equal measure — but has also largely been accepted.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans unveil $568 billion infrastructure counterproposal

Sens. John Barasso and Shelley Moore Capito. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Republicans formally rolled out the framework for their $568 billion counterproposal to President Biden's $2.5 trillion infrastructure plan on Thursday.

Why it matters: The package is far narrower than anything congressional Democrats or the White House would agree to, but it serves as a marker for what Republicans want out of a potential bipartisan deal.