AT&T Lawyers Investigating Whether Trump Had Undue Influence On DOJ Merger Review

from the cronyism-vs-cronyism dept

Given the Trump administration’s rubber stamping of every mono/duopolist desire (killing net neutrality, broadband privacy rules, media consolidation limits), most expected the AT&T Time Warner merger to see approval without much fuss. After all, while the problems caused by vertical integration deals like Comcast NBC Universal are very real, it didn’t seem likely that an administration running rough shod over consumer protections would give much of a damn. Especially given that Trump DOJ antitrust boss Makan Delrahim had already been on record stating he saw no problems whatsoever with the deal.

That’s why leaked reports that the DOJ was suddenly considering blocking the deal came as such a surprise. Said reports indicated that the DOJ was considering a lawsuit to thwart the deal unless AT&T was willing to divest either CNN-owner Turner broadcasting, or DirecTV — which AT&T acquired last year.

There are two generally-accepted theories as to what motivated the Trump administration to hamstring the deal, neither of which (unless you’re immensely gullible) involve actually caring about the very real negative repercussions the deal will have on telecom/media markets and consumers. One is that the Trump administration is simply getting vindictive revenge against CNN for its critical coverage of the president, a path one Trump administration official said was definitely on the table in a July report in the New York Times:

“White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN?s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. Mr. Trump?s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president?s animus toward CNN remains a wild card.”

But there’s another motivation here for the Trump administration: doing a favor for Rupert Murdoch. Reports have indicated that Murdoch has been pressuring the Trump administration to block the deal since at least January, since the combined company would pose a greater competitive threat to his News Corp. empire. Reports more recently indicate that Murdoch approached AT&T at least twice in the last six months looking to convince AT&T to sell CNN, an idea AT&T isn’t interested in. In short, it’s very possible that Trump may be using the DOJ to force AT&T to make a deal with Murdoch.

AT&T lawyers clearly smell something fishy here, and the company quickly indicated it will be asking a court for any and all communications between the DOJ and the Trump administration. Not too surprisingly, AT&T’s inquiry will focus, in part, on the role Rupert Murdoch is playing in scuttling the deal:

“In the event of a trial over the $85.4 billion deal, AT&T intends to seek court permission for access to communications between the White House and the Justice Department about the takeover, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private…AT&T will also try to get any evidence about whether Rupert Murdoch tried to influence the review, according to one of the people. Murdoch, a Trump confidant, controls 21st Century Fox Inc., the parent of Fox News. The president has praised Fox News?s coverage of his administration.”

The entire affair is just another indication that 2017 is simply too weird for words. Blocking the deal on antitrust grounds is the right thing to do to protect streaming markets from AT&T’s long, documented history of anti-competitive behavior. But is it still the right thing to do if the only real goal is to silence critical media voices while aiding a Trump ally’s own business ventures? Pick your poison.

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Comments on “AT&T Lawyers Investigating Whether Trump Had Undue Influence On DOJ Merger Review”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: belgium looking into EA using gabling in star wars battlefront 2

No no, EA was found to be using a significant number of gables in their in-game architecture. This use of gables, clearly being protected architectural IP in Belgium, goes far beyond fair use and thus EA is now being investigated by the courts.

Further, monetizing custom and special gables via “unlockable” systems fed by real-world purchases shows flagrant disregard for this IP and Belgium’s trade treaties which require protection of architectural IP.

These treaties, originally signed by Bill Clinton and upheld by Obama and now Trump, are eroding consumer rights.

Did I cover all the TD bases?

Anonymous Coward says:

why we love political parties

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.”

“The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Both voters in their political parties need to stop giving their own political scum passes while bitching about the other side’s scum.

Obama voters deserve Trump just like the Bush voters deserved Obama.


Re: Re: why we love political parties

The behemoth in question is only the behemoth it is because previous administrations allowed it to get that way.

This is yet another example of desperately trying anything to smear the politician from the other party.

At a certain point it gets so absurd you can’t take any of it seriously anymore. That’s bad because the wolf might finally come for real.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: why we love political parties

Roy Moore is not the only insanity, just a single instance of it. I watch constantly as both sides just trip all over themselves to protect their own by giving them passes and claiming “innocent until proven guilty” until the other side comes into the picture than then its all “guilty until proven innocent”

the massive hypocrisy is doing far more damage than they will ever admit.

Then we have all of the little grubs acting like there really is a difference between the two groups.

The only difference is that one is “battery acid” and the other is “lye”, both might be at opposite ends of the scale but caustic enough to damage everything they touch.


Re: Re: why we love political parties

You mean not treating mere accusations as if they were already proven? I’ve never done that myself. This goes back before OJ. My standards haven’t changed since the pre-web era.

I actually thing punishing Weinstein prematurely is a bad thing. Hollywood seems fine with Hillbilly Justice.

Some of the “defenses” of Moore have been rather deranged but they don’t need to be. There’s only one principle that’s relevant. Either you actually believe in it or you don’t.

It’s just like Free Speech.

Anonymous Coward says:

Oooh, minion attempts a two-fer! Attack Trump and ATT!

However, entire basis for your lengthy blather is alleged report that lawyers will try to delay trial by requesting information that they merely suspect is helpful.

This is again just assertions.

You kids never even attack Trump for REAL problems, like missiles into Syria for false flag blamed on the gov’t, or sending FIVE carrier groups near North Korea, which isn’t going to attack us.

David says:

No conflict here

Blocking the deal on antitrust grounds is the right thing to do to protect streaming markets from AT&T’s long, documented history of anti-competitive behavior. But is it still the right thing to do if the only real goal is to silence critical media voices while aiding a Trump ally’s own business ventures? Pick your poison.

No need to pick a poison. The deal should be blocked because clearly it is intended to harm consumers by reducing available alternatives.

At the same time, if the Trump administration tries to use what is sane as leverage for its own goals, they need to be smacked down. Not for blocking the deal, but for allowing it to go forward once they see their own goals achieved.

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