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Trump Administration Wary of AT&T, Time Warner merger — Merging Fortunes

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

When several news outlets reported on Wednesday that the Justice Department had demanded the sale of CNN, a source within the agency denied that, saying "the parties offered to divest CNN and the DOJ Antitrust Division flatly rejected it".

Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said on Wednesday he opposed the mega-merger but was also anxious about political implications of any divestiture of CNN. The Justice Department's objections surprised many on Wall Street.

In a statement, the Justice Department said it "is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts".

Delrahim's arrival at the Justice Department slowed down the merger review as he got up to speed, people familiar with the matter said last week. "Beyond that, the Department does not comment on any pending investigation".

While critics of the merger have described it as a sign that there is too much consolidation in the media and telecommunications industries, analysts have said that there were few legal grounds on which to block the transaction. 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.

You can see his full comments below.

In the on-stage interview, Stephenson said that if AT&T is required to sell "some of the key franchises of the business that are the most desired for the business plan. we would move to litigation".

Halting the deal between AT&T and Time Warner would require regulators to prove that previous mergers had resulted in worse service for consumers and that shedding assets would be better than behavioral remedies. The previous administration settled a similar tie-up between a pay-TV company and an entertainment giant, the acquisition of NBCUniversal by Comcast Corp., by imposing conditions. 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. He is scheduled to appear in New York City at an event Thursday and likely will be facing questions related to this deal.

"We have been especially concerned about antitrust enforcement as a form of inappropriate leverage to pursue political agendas", the group wrote in an earlier statement, citing "the president's repeated attacks on CNN".

So some observers have been concerned about possible interference all year long.

"We're prepared to litigate now", Stephenson said.

"I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN", Stephenson said.

Separately, Mr. Trump has criticized the proposed merger from a populist perspective.

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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