The Justice Department Says Time Warner Must Sell CNN If It Wants Merger Approval With AT&T


Despite having relied on their coverage since announcing his candidacy in 2015, Donald Trump isn’t a fan of CNN. The president has famously called the 24-hour cable news network “fake news” to its correspondents’ faces, and along with son-in-law turned senior advisor Jared Kushner, complained to its parent company, Time Warner. The latter point is especially concerning since the multimedia giant is in the process of seeking federal approval for a massive merger with AT&T worth $85.4 billion. And according to two separate reports, the Justice Department is trying to make Time Warner sell CNN to approve the deal.

“It’s all about CNN,” an anonymous source familiar with the Justice Department’s request for AT&T told Financial Times. The individual in question, who is among several such sources that spoke with FT and Reuters about the regulator’s endgame, explained federal officials “made it clear to AT&T that if it sold CNN the deal would go through.” In other words, while attempting to prevent major antitrust violations from developing in the two company’s proposed merger, the Trump administration is apparently exercising the legally dubious will of its namesake.

“The closing of the deal is now uncertain,” AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens told attendees at a New York investor conference on Wednesday, adding: “[A] vertical merger like this hasn’t been blocked for over 40 years.” Of course, given the scant information published by FT and Reuters, it’s possible the request to sell CNN has nothing to do with the president’s established ill will toward the news network. Even so, per FT, “AT&T is opposed to selling the TV network and is preparing to take the Trump administration to court, arguing the deal with Time Warner does not pose any competition violations.”

(Via Financial Times and Reuters)