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Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Justice Department (DOJ) has opened an antitrust inquiry into 4 major automakers who recently struck a deal with California to boost emissions standards for their nationwide fleets, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The report, if correct, signals the opening of a new and high-stakes front in the fight between California and the White House over vehicle emissions and mileage rules.

Where it stands: The WSJ reports that DOJ 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."

The story cites anonymous sources familiar with the matter. DOJ declined to comment.

The big picture: The reported probe comes as the Trump administration is preparing to freeze Obama-era carbon emissions and mileage standards, rather than allowing them to grow significantly stronger through the mid-2020s.

One big question: Whether the prospect of facing an antitrust probe could deter other automakers from joining the pact with California.

Quick take: The development deepens the complexity of the regulatory battle for automakers. The industry chafed at Obama-era rules, calling them too strict, but does not support President Trump's effort to freeze the standards outright.

The industry hopes to avoid having to make cars for a split U.S. market in which California, the largest U.S. market, and roughly a dozen states that follow its lead have one set of rules that are different than the federal standards.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

100+ corporate executives consider freezing donations over laws curbing voting access

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

More than 100 corporate executives and leaders gathered on a Zoom call Saturday to discuss ways to combat controversial voting bills being considered in states across the country that would restrict voting access, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: American corporations flexed their advocacy muscles earlier this month when more than 100 companies signaled their opposition to Georgia's new voting law, inciting the wrath of GOP leaders, including former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

7 hours ago - World

Defense Sec. Austin stresses U.S. commitment to Israel's security amid growing Iran tensions

Issei Kato/Reuters/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived for his first visit in Jerusalem amid nuclear talks in Vienna and growing tensions between Israel and Iran.

Why it matters: Austin met his counterpart Benny Gantz and will meet later with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss Iran and regional security issues.

"I was horrified": Leaders respond to footage of Black and Latino Army officer threatened at traffic stop

An Army officer is suing two Virginia police officers after he said they drew their guns and pepper-sprayed him during a traffic stop in December.

Why it matters: Footage of the incident has drawn widespread criticism from leaders and groups in the state. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, is heard saying “I’m honestly afraid to get out," to which a police officer responds “Yeah, you should be," in a video from a body-worn camera.