Dem sens demand answers over reports DOJ wanted CNN sold

Dem sens demand answers over reports DOJ wanted CNN sold
© Greg Nash

A group of Democratic senators is demanding answers from the Trump administration over news reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked AT&T to sell CNN as a condition for allowing a merger between AT&T and Time Warner.

Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFranken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics MORE (D-Minn.) and a group of fellow Democrats sent a letter Friday to President Trump and Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim over the possibility of "undue interference" by Trump in the agency's antitrust enforcement.

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“We write to urge Department of Justice to oppose any attempt by the White House to interfere with antitrust law enforcement decisions, particularly for political reasons," the letter reads. "Several of us raised this concern four months ago after the New York Times reported that White House advisers ‘discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary [CNN], a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner and AT&T.' "

Multiple news organizations reported Wednesday that the Justice Department has told the two companies to either sell off CNN or DirecTV as a condition of approving their proposed merger. Those reports were denied Thursday by AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson.

"First and foremost, irrespective of what you read yesterday, I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN. Period,” Stephenson said. "And likewise, I have never offered to sell CNN. I don’t even know who in the DOJ is saying these things.”

In the letter, the senators rebuke the agency and say that "the content of CNN's news coverage" should not factor into the Justice Department's decision when it comes to antitrust enforcement.

"Should the Antitrust Division determine that AT&T’s acquisition of CNN — as well as other Time Warner properties — raises antitrust concerns, Department enforcement action may be warranted. But political considerations based on the content of CNN’s news coverage should never impact the Department’s decision-making," the senators write.

"Political interference in antitrust law enforcement is unacceptable."

In a statement late Thursday, Delrahim responded to the accusations, saying he had never received instructions from Trump or the White House related to the merger decision.

“I have never been instructed by the White House on this or any other transaction under review by the antitrust division," Delrahim said.

“The President did not speak with the Attorney General about this matter, and no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter,” added White House spokesman Raj Shah.