February 20, 2018
A federal judge Feb. 20 scuttled a request by AT&T to force the Justice Department to disclose communications records with the White House regarding President Donald Trump’s possible input on the $84.5 billion merger.
At issue are allegations that the DOJ stepped in at the last minute to halt the merger due to Trump’s dislike of CNN, which is owned by Time Warner unit Turner.
AT&T, which has to pay Time Warner $500 million should the merger fail, had sought the records to bolster its argument that the government’s case is largely at the whim of Trump than antitrust issues.
“If there is something in those documents, it’s important for us,” argued Daniel Petrocelli, lead attorney for AT&T and Time Warner.
On Feb. 16, the Justice Department admitted Trump wasn’t keen of CNN — which the President has repeatedly accused of reporting fake news — but that his opinion was not sought to influence the government’s antitrust case.
“The president is unhappy with CNN. We don’t dispute that,” Craig Conrath, a DOJ lawyer, said at the pretrial hearing, according to Reuters. “But AT&T wants to turn that into a get-out-jail-free card for their illegal merger.”
Today, a judge agreed. The antitrust trial begins March 19.