AT&T Could Seek White House Communications in Antitrust Review

President Donald Trump listens to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson during the 'American Leadership in Emerging Technology' event in the East Room of the White House in Washington DC on Thursday

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was evasive when a member of the House Judiciary Committee asked whether the White House had contacted the Justice Department in an attempt to influence its decision about the deal. The only remaining regulatory approval for the deal to go through needs to be given by the United States Department of Justice, with the federal agency reportedly making preparations for litigation after failing to find common ground with AT&T.

"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.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) asked Sessions whether the reports about Antitrust Division's review of the merger were correct.

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Reuters, meanwhile, reported last week that Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox and CNN rival Fox News, discussed CNN with AT&T's CEO twice in the past six months.

The reports have surprised a number of lobbyists in Washington who predicted that the merger would gain acceptance by antitrust regulators, who have been more likely to greenlight so-called "vertical mergers" like the AT&T-Time Warner transaction over "horizontal" deals. The latest development in the contentious review comes after more than a week after reports suggested that the DOJ was gearing up for a possible lawsuit to block the merger. Previously, the president has blasted AT&T and Time Warner's merger plans - and during the 2016 election he threatened to block the companies from combining under his watch. Trump has repeatedly attacked it as a purveyor of "fake news", and many feared that his administration was trying to punish CNN through the AT&T review. "A lot of it has just been rumor, so I have not had a briefing on it". "So I want to follow up", Klobuchar said.

"We're prepared to litigate now", Stephenson explained, saying that AT&T would seek an expedited hearing in that case.

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