WASHINGTON — A group of House Democrats are seeking documents from Attorney General Jeff Sessions relating to the Justice Department’s decision to file a lawsuit to block AT&T’s planned merger with Time Warner.
They are interested in whether the decision was in any way impacted by President Donald Trump’s disdain for CNN, a unit of Time Warner. Makan Delrahim, the chief of the Antitrust Division, denies that the lawsuit was influenced by the White House.
The House Democrats take “no position” on “the legality of the transaction or the merits of the lawsuit itself,” but are seeking communications between Sessions and the White House.
The lawmakers — including Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight Committee — cited Trump’s comments on the campaign trail and reports of meetings between the President and Justice Department officials.
“This conduct is, in our opinion, an overt and unprecedented threat to interfere inappropriately with the deliberations of career officials at the Department of Justice,” they wrote. They also cited reports of a meeting that Trump had with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson on Jan. 12, 2017, and of a meeting that his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, had with Time Warner executives to express concern about CNN coverage.
Also signing on to the letter was Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on a subcommittee overseeing antitrust and regulatory law, and Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), ranking member of a subcommittee on government operations.
A trial in the case is scheduled to begin on Jan. 19.
At the time the lawsuit was announced, White House spokesman Raj Shah said that the president “did not speak with the Attorney General about this matter, and no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter.” In testimony before Congress that month, Sessions was asked about the contacts but said that he was not able to comment about conversations between top White House officials and senior DOJ officials.