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A Merger That Trump Derided as a Candidate Pushes Forward: QuickTake Q&A

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Federal antitrust officials looking at the proposed $85.4 billion merger of AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc. are still reviewing whether it might hurt consumers. The president, strangely enough, has already weighed in. While a candidate, Donald Trump said his administration wouldn’t approve an AT&T-Time Warner marriage because that would put "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few." As president-elect, Trump met with AT&T executives in New York. The question now is whether Trump, as president, might try to intervene against the deal if his regulators don’t.

The president doesn’t have direct authority to stop a proposed merger. That power rests with the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission, which can sue to block a combination they consider anti-competitive. (In the case of AT&T-Time Warner, the Justice Department is in charge.) The Federal Communications Commission also can have a say on media and telecommunications deals, though it’s unlikely to get a chance on this one. A president could try to influence the regulatory review of a merger, by pushing officials to impose conditions or to block the deal entirely, though that might skirt the bounds of propriety.