March 4, 2019
Despite claims to the contrary, President Trump wanted to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner — largely for political reasons, according to a report by The New Yorker.
According to the publication, which cited a “well-informed source,” Trump in 2017 called on former economic advisor Gary Cohn and then-chief-of-staff John Kelly to personally ensure that the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the merger — which it did in November, citing antitrust concerns.
Trump, on the 2016 campaign trail, had said the merger would be bad for the country. According to the New Yorker, Trump’s decision was largely due to his dislike for Time Warner’s CNN news division, which he often called “fake news” in response to critical reports of his administration.
“The President does not understand the nuances of antitrust law or policy,” a former unnamed official told the publication. “But he wanted to bring down the hammer.”
When a U.S. federal court judge ruled in favor of AT&T, the DOJ filed an appeal, which was rejected last week by an appeals court. The merger resulted in the creation of WarnerMedia, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.
The intervention by the Justice Department raised eyebrows at the time as it represented the agency’s first since it successfully blocked AT&T’s $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile in 2011.
Indeed, The New Yorker stated Trump had no objection to 21st Century Fox’s $71.3 billion asset sale to The Walt Disney Co. by longtime supporter Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News business remains an influential media asset to the President.