Trump Hasn't Interfered on AT&T-Time Warner Probe, Delrahim Says

  • Antitrust chief nominee responds to senators on pending deals
  • Delrahim says politics shouldn’t influence antitrust matters

President Donald Trump, who vowed on the campaign trail to stop AT&T Inc.’s takeover of Time Warner Inc., hasn’t weighed in on the deal with the antitrust lawyer he’s picked to lead the government’s investigation of the merger.

That’s the assessment of Makan Delrahim, Trump’s nominee to run the Justice Department’s antitrust division. Delrahim had "no conversations" with the president about the Time Warner deal, he said in written responses to questions from senators following his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I was not asked, nor have I provided, any commitments or assurances regarding any potential enforcement actions or pending matters before the antitrust division," Delrahim said in a document posted Monday afternoon on the committee’s website.

AT&T’s $85 billion deal for Time Warner is among several high-profile antitrust investigations that Delrahim will take over if confirmed by the full Senate. Trump’s pre-election comments about the merger, as well as meetings he had as president-elect with chief executives pursuing deals, have raised questions about whether Trump may interfere with the Justice Department’s reviews.

Senators asked Delrahim, who works for the Office of White House Counsel, about contacts with the administration about pending mergers and how he would shield the department’s antitrust investigations from political interference. Delrahim said repeatedly in his responses that political considerations shouldn’t influence cases.

Wireless Market

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, asked Delrahim about his impression of the state of competition in the wireless market. Delrahim didn’t commit to the antitrust division’s position under Obama that the wireless market should have four national competitors. That’s significant because Sprint Corp. has held preliminary conversations with T-Mobile US Inc. about a merger, a tie-up that was opposed by Obama officials because it would reduce the number of competitors to three from four.

Former Obama officials reinforced their view of the market last week in an column. Tom Wheeler, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and Bill Baer, the former head of the antitrust division, said consumers would be harmed if Sprint is allowed to buy T-Mobile.

"I have not recently studied the state of competition in the wireless market and therefore do not have any particular impression regarding its competitiveness at this time," Delrahim wrote.

Now that Delrahim has submitted his answers, it could clear the way for the Judiciary Committee to vote on whether to send his nomination to the full Senate for confirmation.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.