Sessions refuses to say whether WH intervened in AT&T merger discussions

Sessions refuses to say whether WH intervened in AT&T merger discussions
© Camille Fine

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat House passes concealed carry gun bill Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee next week MORE on Tuesday refused to say whether he has discussed the pending AT&T-Time Warner merger with anyone at the White House.

“I’m not able to comment on conversations or communications that Department of Justice top people have with top people at the White House,” he said in response to a question from Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineOvernight Tech: FCC won't delay net neutrality vote | Google pulls YouTube from Amazon devices | Biden scolds social media firms over transparency Overnight Regulation: Senate tax bill to include ObamaCare mandate repeal | Sessions sidesteps questions on WH influence on AT&T merger | Dems seek more transparency on student borrower rule AT&T wants to probe Trump's role in Time Warner merger: report MORE (D-R.I.) at a Tuesday House Judiciary Committee meeting. 
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The White House and Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department's antitrust chief, have both denied that there has been any interference in the merger negotiations.
 
Cicilline, visibly angered by the response, unsuccessfully tried to get the chairman to compel Sessions to be more forthcoming.
 
"Either you’re invoking the Fifth Amendment or you’re invoking executive privilege," Cicilline said. "You just can’t decline to answer because it’s uncomfortable."
 
According to multiple news reports that emerged last week, the Justice Department's antitrust division had demanded that AT&T and Time Warner sell off CNN in order to get their merger approved. CNN is a Time Warner subsidiary.
 
Earlier in Tuesday's hearing, Sessions declined to comment on the merger discussions but threw doubt on the reports.
 
"I would just tell you that I would not be able to accept as accurate news reports that have come out on that," he said.
 
Critics have raised the possibility that demands to sell CNN may have been part of President Trump's personal vendetta against the network. And Trump ally Rupert Murdoch has reportedly offered to buy CNN.