×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Senator Raises Concerns of White House ‘Political Influence’ Over AT&T-Time Warner Merger

After reports that the Trump administration may use government approval of AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner as “leverage” over CNN, a key Democratic senator is asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions for disclosure of any contacts between the White House and the Justice Department about the transaction.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, wrote in the letter that “any political interference in antitrust enforcement is unacceptable.”

“Even more concerning, in this instance, is that it appears that some advisers to the President may believe that it is appropriate for the government to use its law enforcement authority to alter or censor the press. Such an action would violate the First Amendment,” she wrote.

On Wednesday, the New York Times, citing an unnamed senior administration official, said that the merger was a “potential point of leverage” in pressuring CNN. The Daily Caller reported that the administration is conditioning its support of the deal on whether CNN chief Jeff Zucker is fired or forced to resign.

Klobuchar asked Sessions for contacts between the White House and the Justice Department on the merger.

Trump has repeatedly attacked the network as “fake news,” and even tweeted out a video in which he’s shown wrestling a man, with the CNN logo superimposed over his head, to the ground. The video had been altered from one taken at a WrestleMania event about 10 years ago.

The Justice Department is reviewing the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner transaction, but its Antitrust Division weighs whether transactions conform to antitrust law, not over what its impact would be on the nature and tone of news coverage. Makan Delrahim, Trump’s choice to lead the antitrust division, is still awaiting Senate confirmation, but during his confirmation hearing, he said that he would maintain the independence of the division.

Klobuchar noted that she has raised “serious questions about the impact” of the merger, but wrote that the “transaction should be judged solely on its impact on competition, innovation, and consumers, not as ‘leverage’ for political gain.”

Still, the idea that the White House would try to exert its influence over the review, for political reasons rather than antitrust concerns, has been unsettling to some antitrust experts.

During the campaign, Trump said that he opposed the AT&T-Time Warner merger, citing the concentration of the media. He has said little publicly about the pending transaction since then.

In December, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was asked about Trump’s opposition to the transaction, and even then suggested that Trump’s unhappiness with CNN was a factor.

“Anytime the president of the United States comes out and says they’re not in favor of what you’re trying to do, you have to pay attention,” he said at a media conference. “But I don’t know what part of the deal he’s referring to. I’ve heard rumors he’s not happy with CNN, so that might have come into it.”

Stephenson met with Trump in January, but the company said that the merger was not discussed.

More Biz

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    Gersh Agency Stirs Ire After Canceling Network Meeting for Former Client

    In a sign of hostility in the war between the WGA and Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, Gersh Agency has come under fire from TV and film writers for canceling a network meeting that it had arranged for a now-former client. Writer Jorge Reyes disclosed the incident in a series of tweets on Monday. Reyes asserted [...]

  • Streaming Placeholder

    TikTok Owner Preparing Streaming Service to Rival Spotify (Report)

    ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of the TikTok video app, is developing a paid streaming music service aimed at the same emerging markets that Spotify and Apple are seeking to explore, according to a report in Bloomberg. The app could be introduced as early as autumn, according to the report, which adds that the company has [...]

  • Stranger Things

    Coca-Cola Will Revive New Coke in Alliance With Netflix, 'Stranger Things'

    A rush of TV watchers to streaming video has prompted Coca-Cola to test an interesting pour. Coca-Cola will bring New Coke back to market for a brief time, all part of a partnership with Netflix, which has featured Coke in its cult-favorite series “Stranger Things.” The third season of the series, set in 1985, will [...]

  • Doug Davis and Jodie ShihadehVariety Power

    Jodie Shihadeh Named Partner at The Davis Firm

    Jodie Shihadeh has been named Partner at The Davis Firm, PLLC. She joined the firm in 2011 and rose from associate to Managing Attorney and now partner. She graduated from Boston College and received her law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 2011. While still in law school she interned in the Business [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Nickelodeon Alum Keith Dawkins Sets Kidvid Partnership With Believe Entertainment Group

    Former Nickelodeon executive Keith Dawkins has partnered with Believe Entertainment Group to develop children’s programming. Dawkins will partner with Believe under his newly formed Rock Hill Media Ventures, which aims to advise companies in media, entertainment and sports on working with diverse and emerging talent. Dawkins previously spent 17 years at Viacom, most of which [...]

  • CBS Studios Exterior

    CBS Credit Union Manager Pleads Guilty to $40 Million Fraud

    The manager of a credit union for CBS employees pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court on Monday to a $40 million embezzlement scheme. Edward Rostohar, 62, was arrested in March after the scheme began to unravel. According to prosecutors, he admitted to stealing money from the bank for the last 20 years. Rostohar is [...]

  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The

    CAA's Packaging Fee Becomes Flashpoint in 'Walking Dead' Litigation

    UPDATED with new statement and response filing The issue that is at the heart of the WGA’s present standoff with talent agencies has flared up as a source of tension in the litigation between AMC Networks and Frank Darabont and CAA over profit participation on “The Walking Dead.” Attorneys for Darabont and CAA called AMC’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content