Some states reluctant to affix DOJ towards AT&T-Time Warner deal

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Stelter: Trump factor at play in AT&T deal?

AT&T is bracing for an antitrust lawsuit from the Justice Department that may try to dam its pending acquisition of Time Warner, CNN’s mum or dad firm, on the grounds that it might hurt customers.

But the DOJ is having bother discovering allies.

The DOJ’s antitrust division has been contacting some state attorneys common to enlist their badist — a typical maneuver in instances like this.

But few, if any, states have signed on but, based on an official in a state that has turned down the case.

A second supply backed up this account.

More than a dozen states had been concerned within the DOJ’s evaluate of the deal, the supply stated. According to the state official, a few of them concluded that the authorized case to dam the deal is skinny. The official additionally expressed concern that the DOJ’s case may very well be politically motivated.

Related: People have referred to as AT&T about shopping for CNN; was Rupert Murdoch one in every of them?

A handful of state workplaces would possibly nonetheless be on board, the sources stated.

It’s not essential to have states on board, however the Justice Department works intently with state attorneys common on all types of points. Joint actions are typically seen as a present of pressure. Last yr, for instance, eleven states joined the DOJ’s lawsuit blocking Anthem’s proposed $54 billion acquisition of Cigna.

CNBC was first to report the reluctance concerning the case amongst some states.

A DOJ spokesperson declined to remark. Several state attorneys common additionally declined to remark.

AT&T has been making ready for a possible authorized problem to the deal. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson stated final week that if the DOJ sued, the corporate would search an expedited listening to.

It is unclear if talks are nonetheless underway about an settlement that may stave off a court docket battle. But Wall Street badysts say they’re anticipating a authorized problem.

“We now believe AT&T and Time Warner have been informed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) that a lawsuit is imminent,” BTIG Research badyst Rich Greenfield stated Tuesday night time.

Earlier this week, executives concerned within the course of informed CNN that the federal government’s authorized motion may come at any time.

The $85 billion deal was introduced in October 2016. But President Trump’s election a number of weeks later was a curveball. Republican administrations have traditionally been business-friendly, however on the marketing campaign path Trump vowed to dam the deal, saying, “As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” Since taking workplace, he has repeatedly and vociferously criticized CNN.

After a prolonged delay, the president’s choose to run the DOJ’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, took cost in September following eight months within the White House counsel’s workplace.

Delrahim and his staffers have taken a skeptical method to the proposed mixture of content material and distribution. In an interview he gave earlier than becoming a member of the Trump administration, although, Delrahim had stated he did not count on the deal to be a giant antitrust downside.

Related: Who is Makan Delrahim, the Trump antitrust chief?

Among observers, there are two competing narratives about what is going on on. The first standpoint is that the Justice Department is genuinely simply intervening to guard customers. The different standpoint is that political video games are being performed.

Lawyers within the DOJ are usually insulated from political strain, however in some ways the Trump administration is atypical. Trump has been important of the DOJ and Attorney General Jeff Sessions all yr lengthy. He has lately urged the division to badyze his political rivals, together with Hillary Clinton.

Several distinguished Democratic lawmakers have questioned whether or not Trump’s hatred of important information protection has trickled down into departmental decision-making.

AT&T might elevate related questions in the course of the looming court docket battle, based on a current report by Bloomberg.

President Trump fired off one other shot on the community on Wednesday: “While in the Philippines I was forced to watch @CNN, which I have not done in months, and again realized how bad, and FAKE, it is. Loser!”

If the deal does go to court docket, AT&T might now cite his tweets as circumstantial proof of presidential interference.

— CNN’s Kara Scannell and Jackie Wattles contributed reporting.

CNNMoney (New York) First revealed November 15, 2017: 2:21 PM ET

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