T-Mobile Chief Executive Officer John Legere was grilled by members of the House Judiciary Committee as part of a Tuesday hearing regarding the wireless carrier’s proposed merger with Sprint.
Democratic lawmakers repeatedly circled back to now-verified reports of T-Mobile executives spending close to $200,000 at Trump hotels around the time government officials were looking into their merger bid most closely.
The DNC show
The government scrutiny weakened in the meantime by a significant margin as the third- and fourth-largest network operators in the country managed to receive universal approval from the so-called “Team Telecom” in mid-December. What little hope opponents of the deal have for it to be stopped now mostly rests on the possibility that the Trump administration could either yield to Capitol Hill pressure or one of the remaining Congress committees could attempt intervening in the deal themselves.
When asked about suspiciously timed stays at Trump-owned properties, Mr. Legere argued he’s a long-time customer of the franchise. He was then referred to a 2015 Twitter argument with Trump regarding the quality of one of his previous stays. The public discussion that’s now deleted but archived ended with Mr. Legere concluding he’ll never go to a Trump hotel again. The industry veteran had nothing substantial to say when confronted about that hypocrisy but repeatedly stated he believes the remaining federal agencies that are yet to greenlight the proposed tie-up with Sprint will review the case on its merits and not T-Mobile executives’ choice of lodgings.
Since the preliminary consolidation agreement was announced last year, top company executives spent 52 nights at Trump properties in total. The Tuesday hearing saw Democratic Representatives allege T-Mobile is attempting to influence the administration with its spending, a notion Mr. Legere dismissed as frivolous.
Georgia Democratic Representative Hank Johnson also pointed to eight other executives who checked in at an NYC Trump hotel on March 30, 2018, one day after the firm announced its intentions to merge with Sprint. The wireless carrier’s hotel bills over the next ten months amounted to some $1.4 million, so around 13-percent of that sum went directly into Trump’s business.
GOP not particularly willing to step in
While some GOP Representatives like Florida Republican Matt Gaetz — who chimed in on the hypocrisy queries by exemplifying how he sympathizes with the CEO — defended Mr. Legere from a subset of the DNC’s inquiries, the majority of their criticism aimed at the DNC was related to the fact the House majority did not focus on the actual merits of the proposed merger and has instead chosen to pursue the Trump angle which by itself would hardly be grounds for dismissal even if it was fully proven as accurate.
The overall contents of the hearing that ran for close to four hours can be viewed below but in overall, it appears neither pole of the political aisle in the U.S. is particularly thrilled by the possibility of four national carriers being trimmed down to just three.
Besides making future price hikes — particularly in the prepaid segment where T-Mobile and Sprint are without meaningful large-scale opposition — more likely, the merger also threatens at least thousands of jobs at both telecom giants, as CWA and several other entities argued in the past.
T-Mobile and Sprint are sticking with the majority of their original pitch, claiming they can’t offer 5G services in a reasonable timeframe without each other’s support and promising to achieve positive net job adds of the combined entity by the end of the year.