Trump Told Gary Cohn To Pressure DOJ To Block Time Warner/AT&T Deal

Pablo Martinez Monsivais  AP

Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

The New Yorker piece, on a the close relations between the Trump White House and Fox News, provides an account of an Oval Office meeting involving Trump, former economic advisor Gary Cohn, and former chief of staff John Kelly where Trump fulminates against the proposed merger of media giants AT&T and Time Warner.

Bret Stephens, a conservative columnist for The New York Times, was appalled, and told Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC's "Deadline: White House" that this was a massive scandal and an impeachment-worthy abuse of power.

At the heart of the theories is Trump's public dislike of CNN, which was a division of Time Warner.

Trump complained to Kelly about Cohn's scruples, Mayer reports, saying at one point: "I've been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing's happened!"

"Let me start with you, Brett, because I know the merger was something you reported on at the time", said Wallace. I want that deal blocked!'

Mayer noted in her report that "under Trump the government has consistently furthered Murdoch's business interests, to the detriment of his rivals", including the approval of Disney's purchase of Fox, a deal in which the Murdoch family will make more than two billion dollars. After the decision, a Time Warner spokesman said that the case against the company had been "political in its motivation" and driven by Trump's hostility to CNN.

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Ever since the Justice Department sued in 2017 to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, theories and accusations of political animus has swirled around the antitrust case. But whether Trump had intervened wasn't clear-AT&T ultimately succeeded in court and completed the merger, despite failing in an attempt to prove that Trump meddled in the merger review.

"Don't you fucking dare call the Justice Department. We are not going to do business that way", Conway wrote, quoting directly from the article.

Reuters reported around the same time that Murdoch twice called AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to ask if AT&T would sell CNN but that Stephenson told him AT&T wouldn't put CNN up for sale.

According to The New Yorker, a few months before the DOJ filed its antitrust lawsuit, Trump called John Kelly, who had just become the chief of staff, into the Oval Office along with Cohn and said, "I've been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing's happened!"

"The First Amendment prohibits retaliation based on speech, association, or political activity", the watchdog group Protect Democracy wrote previous year in a white paper that disputed Trump's claims that he can do whatever he likes with the DOJ.

Mayer's story supports those denials because it shows White House officials colluding not to carry out the orders of the president to attempt to encourage the Justice Department to block the deal.

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