The Justice Department has called on AT&T and Time Warner to sell its Turner Broadcasting division, which includes CNN, as a possible condition for approving their $85.4 billion merger deal, The New York Times reported Wednesday. But, the president's oft-stated animus toward CNN and its reporting could also be seen as an obstacle to the deal's completion should the Trump administration's Justice Department ultimately opt to challenge the acquisition.
Obama-era regulators in 2011 approved a similar media merger, cable company Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal, after Comcast agreed to a slew of business requirements.
But according to the FT, Delrahim had "changed his view since taking office" regarding the antitrust problems posed. Without an agreement, the Justice Department would sue to block the merger - with a lawsuit possibly coming as soon as next week, one of the people said.
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"The Department is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts", the department said in a statement. "Beyond that, the Department does not comment on any pending investigation".
"Until now, we've never commented on our discussions with the DOJ", said Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chairman and CEO. Early today, the company's CFO, John Stephens, said the closing of the deal, long predicted to come by year-end, was "uncertain".
On Wall Street, Time Warner fell 6.5 percent to close at $88.50, while AT&T shares jumped 1.1 percent to close at $33.44. He cited AT&T's mobile device-driven potential to deliver Time Warner content to its customers. The company has said it considers CNN, the news network that has been a lightning rod for President Donald Trump, a prize asset, and the company also considers properties such as the Warner Bros. studio, HBO, TNT and TBS essential, people familiar with the matter said. Ethics officials reviewed the interview and determined recusal isn't required, the department told Warren.
In a new interview with CNN, Trump Counselor Kellyanne Conway denied that Trump is interfering with the DOJ's review of the merger. This reporting prompted Democratic Senators to warn against political intervention. He said the company has "very good" prospects of winning in court against the Justice Department.