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AT&T CEO: DOJ never demanded CNN sale in Time Warner deal

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Manhattan’s East Village. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Justice Department staff recommended that AT&T sell either its DirecTV unit or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting unit, which includes news company CNN, a government official told Reuters on Thursday, on the grounds that a combined company would raise costs for rival entertainment distributors and stifle innovation. "It was made by a man who's a very respected person, a very, very respected person". Trump was apparently referring to Makan Delrahim, the chief of the Justice Department's antitrust division. The Justice Department has asked that assets like cable news network CNN and satellite provider DirecTV be sold, according to people familiar with the matter. The Justice Department, which is reviewing the $85.4 billion deal, recently presented the options to the companies, the source added, confirming reports from United States media and the Financial Times.

"Are we really going to make the (Justice Department) use antitrust law to force the sale of a cable channel because the President doesn't like its news coverage?" tweeted Jessica Rosenworcel, member of the Federal Communications Commission. "So we'll see - that probably ends up being litigation maybe not, we'll see how it all plays out".

A White House official said Kushner didn't intend for the comment to be taken seriously and was only trying to make a point, according to the Journal, which reported that the remark "wasn't taken lightly" inside Time Warner.

Rather than attempting to weaken CNN as a condition of the merger, the DOJ should move against it for the reasons cited by Trump himself while campaigning in Gettysburg in 2016. "It's illogical. It's why we did the deal", he said. He added that AT&T was also not willing to sell HBO or Warner Bros., which would also come along with Time Warner if the deal goes through. "This way, at least you can get your word out". "I do feel that you should have as many news outlets as you can, especially since so many of them are fake".

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