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10 November 2017, 12:40 | Bernard Bryant
Manhattan’s East Village. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times
"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.
Nevertheless, the Justice Department says it flatly denied the proposal for AT&T to sell CNN, insisting it wouldn't necessarily resolve their concerns. Another way to resolve the concerns, the Department of Justice toldAT&T, is to sell off DirecTV, according to the source.
The Justice Department is supposed to make merger reviews based exclusively on antitrust law.
Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said in a separate statement that Trump "did not speak with the Attorney General about this matter, and no White House official was authorized speak with the Department of Justice on this matter".
The Justice Department is declining to comment about the merger.
AT&T sources said the Journal story was an unwelcome surprise.
The biggest counterweight to such an argument is the Obama administration's 2011 approval of Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal. He will argue the vertical deal will not harm competition and is similar to deals approved in the past, a source briefed on the matter said. "While we won't comment on our discussions with DOJ, we see no reason in the law or the facts why this transaction should be an exception".
AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, prior to testifying before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. It had previously said the acquisition would close by the end of this year. If the two sides don't reach an agreement on acceptable conditions or asset sales, the Justice Department will sue to try to block the deal. As a candidate, Trump vowed to block the deal shortly after it was announced in October 2016, but has not addressed the issue publicly as president.
So some observers have been concerned about possible interference all year long.
Separately, Mr. Trump has criticized the proposed merger from a populist perspective.
When asked whether the president still personally opposes the AT&T-Time Warner deal, Conway said, "I haven't discussed that with him lately". He said he wants the department to investigate his political rivals, including Hillary Clinton.
Makan Delrahim, who took up the reins at the antitrust division in September after he was confirmed by the Senate, has signaled he isn't a fan of settlements that force the Justice Department into ongoing monitoring of companies' behavior.
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