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AT&T puts Trump administration in a spot over Time Warner Deal

AT&T and Time Warner have been looking to merge, with their proposal blocked by the Department of Justice recently. The telecom giant seems to have had enough and now wants to put the head of the anti-trust division of the Justice Department, Makan Delrahim, on the witness stand to testify about his decision to oppose the merger.

The company believes that the chief held discussions with President Trump before suing to block the deal. Trump, as you may recall, has never kept his disapproval of the AT&T-Time Warner merger a secret.
AT&T has also requested all forms of communication between the White House and the Justice Department.

 

AAG Delrahim speaks at the Beijing American Center, U.S. Embassy, Beijing, China (File Photo, courtesy DoJ)

AT&T’s plan to call the antitrust head to testify could turn the table against them as it gives Delrahim a chance to defend his decision to block the merger.
Delrahim had argued that the combination of the telecom giant with the prominent media company would harm both consumers and competition. AT&T has a broad reach regarding its wireless and satellite TV network. Time Warner’s HBO and Warner Bros. divisions create some of the most popular TV content. Allowing these two to come together would give them immense and unfair power over pricing and content access.
Delrahim had also expressed displeasure over the approvals of vertical mergers based upon certain conditions, a trend he wishes to change.
AT&T, on the other hand, claims that its deal has been selectively and unfairly targeted. The company insists that several similar mergers have been approved in the past on the condition that terms be met.
The mobile services provider also said that Delrahim changed his previous stance in favor of the merger, and was now singing a different tune due to political influences. In late 2016, Delrahim had apparently said that he didn’t see the merger as “a major antitrust problem.”
AT&T also attributes this unfair targeting to the discord between Trump and CNN. Trump has criticized CNN on multiple occasions. This argument has been rubbished by experts who claim that the DoJ has the relevant reasons to oppose the deal without resorting to such tactics.
The White House and Justice Department have denied all claims of any political interference concerning the deal.

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