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Trump’s Political Problems Threaten Merger Between AT&T and Time-Warner

AT&T’s blockbuster $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner Has Become Political.

For one thing, the Justice Department officials still don’t have a boss who will have the final say on whether to approve or block the deal. President Trump’s pick for assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust matters, Makan Delrahim, has been held up in a logjam of nominees in the Senate. And Mr. Trump himself, who said during last year’s campaign that he opposed the deal, is another wild card. A senior administration official said last week that members of the White House were discussing how they might use their perch over the merger review as leverage over Time Warner’s news network, CNN.

….. On Friday, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, also expressed alarm at reports that the White House might be trying to influence the Justice Department’s merger review because of Mr. Trump’s rocky relationship with CNN.

“Any political interference in antitrust enforcement is unacceptable,” Ms. Klobuchar wrote to Mr. Sessions. “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.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

When the Senate comes back into session on Monday, Mr. Delrahim, Mr. Trump’s nominee, will have three weeks to get confirmed before the full August recess. But it is unclear whether he will move past the logjam, and a delay in his appointment could significantly set back AT&T and Time Warner’s review. Antitrust experts are doubtful the companies and the Justice Department would want to rush through the investigation until Mr. Delrahim is in place.


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