February 14, 2018
AT&T reportedly plans to put Makan Delrahim, U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, on the witness stand in next month’s federal trial regarding the telecom’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The DOJ filed suit against the merger, claiming the deal would negatively affect consumers and the market.
In a twist, AT&T seeks to question – under oath – the government official responsible for the lawsuit.
Iranian-born Delrahim, who was nominated to the antitrust division by President Trump, and infamously gifted a baseball cap with the slogan, “Makan Antitrust Great Again,” upon his arrival, previously served in the position under President George W. Bush.
Why AT&T seeks to grill Delrahim – a corporate lawyer – revolves around his time as a lobbyist for Comcast, Google, Blue Cross Blue Shield and other major corporations.
Indeed, when the AT&T – Time Warner merger was first announced, Delrahim told a TV interview he didn’t think the merger posed a significant antitrust issue.
Of course, that was before he was appointed by Trump, who many observers believe stepped into the merger at the last minute for largely personal – not regulatory – reasons.
Trump has repeatedly called out CNN, which is owned by Time Warner unit Turner, as a facilitator of false news about him and his administration.
Scuttlebutt suggests the government could okay the deal if CNN and other properties were spun off — a scenario AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said he wouldn’t agree to.
With AT&T on the hook to Time Warner for $500 million should the merger fail, expect to see Delrahim’s TV interview presented to him in court.