According to AT&T, the Department of Justice reportedly told them Monday that their proposed merger with Time Warner — which requires approval from the agency — will not be approved unless the company sells Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN. Video embedded in the tweet below:
"@CBSNews has learned that Pres. Trump's justice department told AT&T during a meeting on Monday that for the deal to go through, the company must sell CNN." @juliannagoldman explains pic.twitter.com/QRT9fafD0g
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) November 8, 2017
President Donald Trump, a vocal critic of CNN, promised as a candidate in 2016 that if elected he would put a stop to the $85 billion dollar merger because it would be “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
AT&T told CBS News that the DOJ informed them Monday that for the deal to be approved, CNN must be sold. The discussion led some in the media to reflect on Trump’s repeated charges against CNN as “fake news” and speculated that the White House had a hand in the DOJ’s decision, a notion quickly refuted by presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway.
However, AT&T is standing by their assertion that the meeting with the DOJ was influenced by Trump’s animus toward the cable news giant, saying that the president had broached the subject personally with CEO and chairman Randall Stephenson. The DOJ is countering, saying that AT&T offered to drop CNN as a condition of the deal, and that the government rejected the offer.
Stephenson released a statement saying he has never made such an offer and has no intention of selling CNN.
“Until now, we’ve never commented on our discussions with the DOJ,” Stephenson said in a statement. “But given DOJ’s statement this afternoon, it’s important to set the record straight. Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so.”
The DOJ insists that their rejection of the deal they say AT&T offered was a result of their anti-trust division deciding it “would not solve potential anti-competition issues.”
Justice Department officials told NBC News there are multiple ways to solve issues regarding the AT&T-Time Warner deal, but selling CNN would not resolve concerns.
“The Department is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts,” a DOJ spokesperson said in response to Stephenson’s statement. “Beyond that, the Department does not comment on any pending investigation.”
The deal was expected to close by the end of 2017, but is now facing an extended time frame and there are new reports that the DOJ’s antitrust division is preparing litigation in the event it is forced to sue to block the deal.