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AT&T Could Seek White House Communications in Antitrust Review

14 November 2017

President Donald Trump denied on Saturday reports that he had ordered the Department of Justice to halt the $US85.4 billion ($1,275 billion) merger between AT&T and Time Warner unless the combined company sells off Turner Broadcasting, a group of cable channels which includes Trump's hated arch-enemy CNN. A press official for Goodlatte didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

This week, Delrahim and other agency officials told AT&T that the deal as it now stands raises anti-competition concerns, and that the company will need to shed some assets, perhaps either Turner or DirecTV.

The DOJ's review process is supposed to be independent, though its about-face on the merger has struck even many Democrats who oppose a combined AT&T and Time Warner as suspicious.

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Representative John Conyers of MI, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island said Trump "has repeatedly criticized CNN for the nature of its coverage of him" and cited a July tweet by Trump in which he attacked CNN as "fake news and garbage journalism". One scenario discussed would involve AT&T selling off Turner and then operating the spun-out company as a joint venture. Last week, reports alleged that in order for the Justice Department to approve the sale, CNN would have to be sold. But given DOJ's statement this afternoon, it's important to set the record straight.

"We think AT&T's merger approval chances would be further improved if there's meaningful criticism in the coming days of Trump possibly using antitrust law to target CNN, and either the president or DOJ decide a court challenge isn't worth it, especially with DOJ likely to lose the court case", Gallant wrote.

AT&T Could Seek White House Communications in Antitrust Review