A judge on Tuesday, February 20, denied AT&T’s request to see White House communications that might shed light on whether US President Donald Trump pressured the Department of Justice (DOJ) to try to block the wireless carrier’s purchase of Time Warner.
The decision is a potential setback to AT&T’s plan to argue in an upcoming trial that the department’s decision to oppose the acquisition was politically motivated, perhaps spurred on by Trump’s public criticism of the deal and his frequent attacks on Time Warner’s CNN.
“Defendants have fallen far short of establishing that this enforcement action was selective,” Judge Leon said.The decision puts a crimp in AT&T’s defense for its US$85 billion proposed merger with Time Warner. And it is a big win for th DOJ, which would like to avoid attention on the role of politics in its decision to stop the deal. The merger would transform the media landscape by combining a television and movie giant with one of the nation’s biggest media distributors.
“We respect the judge’s decision and look forward to the upcoming trial,” said Dan Petrocelli, lead trial lawyer for both Time Warner and AT&T.
In a statement, the DOJ said, “We are pleased with and respect today’s decision, which will permit the parties and court to focus on the case at hand.”
AT&T has argued that the DOJ has unfairly singled out its proposed merger with Time Warner partly to stay in favor with the White House. President Trump has been a vocal critic of Time Warner’s news network, CNN, and said before the election that the deal should be stopped.