Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Trump Says AT&T Deal for Time Warner May End Up in Court

  • Comment from president could indicate attempt to block deal
  • Trump asked about $85 billion merger during trip to Asia

President Donald Trump indicated the Justice Department may try to block AT&T Inc.’s proposed purchase of CNN owner Time Warner Inc., saying “it will probably end up being maybe litigation, maybe not.”

AT&T is preparing for a court battle if the Justice Department tries to prevent the $85.4 billion deal. 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. AT&T has said it won’t sell CNN, a regular target of Trump’s Twitter attacks against what he calls “fake news.”

Trump was asked about the dispute during his trip to Asia.

“We’ll see how that -- it will probably end up being maybe litigation, maybe not. We’ll see how it all plays out,” Trump said aboard Air Force One, according to the White House’s official transcript of the exchange.

AT&T discussed the Time Warner deal on Monday with Makan Delrahim, the Department of Justice’s antitrust chief, AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said Thursday. The CEO said selling CNN would make no sense and run counter to his plan to build a media distribution business.

Some Democratic lawmakers are calling the uproar over the cable news network political. Trump assailed the merger on the campaign trail, saying the tie-up would concentrate media power.

Whose Call?

Trump was asked if he wants AT&T to sell CNN.

“Well, I didn’t make the decision,” Trump said, according to the White House transcript. “That was made by a man who’s actually a very respected person -- a very, very respected person."

The decision would be made by Delrahim, who was nominated by Trump and joined the Justice Department’s antitrust division in September after being confirmed by the Senate.

“I did make a comment in the past as to what I think,” Trump said. “I do feel that you should have as many news outlets as you can, especially since so many of them are fake. This way, at least you can get your word out. But I do believe you should have as many news outlets as you can.”

Trump during a campaign appearance in 2016 called the merger “an example of the power structure I’m fighting” and called it “a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”

— With assistance by Justin Sink

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