AT&T Suspects White House Interference In Time Warner Deal

November 14, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

AT&T suspects the White House is trying to interfere in its proposed $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner and is preparing to probe its role in the antitrust review of the deal that’s presently threatening to block the merger, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing sources close to the second largest wireless carrier in the country. The only remaining regulatory approval for the deal to go through needs to be given by the United States Department of Justice, with the federal agency reportedly making preparations for litigation after failing to find common ground with AT&T. The Dallas, Washington-based mobile service provider is said to be suspecting President Trump to be involved in the effort to block the consolidation despite the fact that the DOJ previously explicitly dismissed the notion that the highest office in the country is in any way involved in the current antitrust probe.

President Trump strongly opposed the deal before winning the 2016 election but hasn’t publicly criticized it since taking office. The first occasion on which he reflected on the matter in an official capacity as President came during his recent trip to Asia when he gave an ambiguous remark about AT&T’s case possibly going to trial, noting how litigation still isn’t guaranteed. Should the DOJ and AT&T end up in court, the latter will reportedly ask the competent judicial body to subpoena all correspondence between the federal agency and the White House related to the standard exchange of evidence in the case, likely in an effort to attempt proving that its consolidation is being opposed for political reasons. Now-President Trump originally objected to the merger over his clashes with CNN, a unit of Time Warner-owned Turner Broadcasting System which he repeatedly called “fake news” and accused it of giving him unfair coverage, both as a presidential candidate and later President. Even as his conflict with CNN extended into his presidency, the merger itself ceased to be the topic of his public remarks until last week.

The DOJ is reportedly requesting significant concessions from AT&T in order to approve the deal, with industry sources previously claiming that the agency is seeking major divestitures from the telecom giant. The wireless carrier was supposedly given a choice between selling its 2015 acquisition DIRECTV or Time Warner’s Turner division in order to get the acquisition approved, even if it was to later form a joint venture with its divested assets. AT&T is said to have dismissed those proposals and is currently on track to be targeted by a DOJ lawsuit by Thanksgiving, according to recent reports.