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DoJ may brief White House on MS penalties

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MS on Trial The White House may be asked to be briefed by the DoJ about the penalties it will seek against Microsoft, it emerged yesterday. The DoJ has declined to comment, other than to say that Janet Reno, the attorney general would participate if so, and this suggests that a briefing is likely. Meanwhile the reverberations of Bill Gates' trip to Washington earlier this week continue. Yesterday the DoJ antitrust chief Joel Klein thanked the American Bar Association for its support against Microsoft's attempt last year to persuade Congress to reduce the budget of the DoJ. Klein said: "Politics can have no place in the enforcement of antitrust laws". We now also know that Representative Victor Snyder (Democrat, Arkansas) wrote to the House Ethics Committee asking if House Republicans had improperly asked Gates for campaign donations during his visit to Congress. It's claimed Gates had been asked in a private meeting with House Republicans why Republicans were not getting more support from Microsoft. If anyone did ask this question they were skating on thin ice, given the circumstances. More detail has also emerged is about Senator Gorton's remark about Microsoft preferring to take its chances with the Court of Appeals. Apparently Gates told Democratic Senators that expedition of the proceedings to the Supreme Court would prevent Microsoft mounting a proper defence, because of the complexity of the case. Pro-Microsoft Senator Robert Torricelli (Democrat, NJ) wants "the federal government to take the lead in jump-starting settlement talks," the Washington Post reported, and he didn't want to break up "a company that has done this much economically to advance our national interest". Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican, Utah), the anti-Microsoft chairmen of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, will be holding hearings on remedies and is considering calling both Klein and Judge Richard Posner, the mediator. Hatch commented that it would have been better if Congress had not played "a bit part in this PR campaign". A spokeswoman for Senator John McCain (Republican, Arizona), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said that his discussion with Gates was about how Congress might examine the impact of any court-imposed remedies on Microsoft - and that the probable outcome will be antitrust hearings. House Majority Leader Richard Amey (Republican, Texas) said "I'd rather break up the Justice Department" than Microsoft, while Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican, Mississippi) said after his private session with Gates, that "lawyers in the Justice Department are getting into the policy area". What cannot be in any doubt is how politically savvy Microsoft has become in Washington's ways compared with a few years ago - something that could go a long way to neutralise the effect of a couple of bad results in the court. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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