AT&T hires former Trump lawyer to defend Time Warner deal

AT&T hires former Trump lawyer to defend Time Warner deal
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AT&T is hiring media lawyer Daniel Petrocelli to serve as its lead trial counsel in case the Justice Department (DOJ) files a lawsuit to block a potential merger with Time Warner.

An AT&T spokesperson confirmed the hiring to The Hill.

Petrocelli, a partner at the firm O'Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles, has previously worked for clients including Disney and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump appears to confirm deal on Chinese firm ZTE Judge rejects Manafort's attempt to throw out some charges Dem: Trump’s policy of separating children, parents at border ‘would shock Jesus’ MORE, whom he defended in fraud lawsuits over the Trump University real estate training program.

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The DOJ is reportedly considering a lawsuit to stop the $85 billion deal between AT&T and Time Warner.

The merger has been controversial with Trump vowing on the campaign trail to block it. After taking office, Trump said he was open to the merger, but has feuded with news network CNN, which is owned by Time Warner.

Trump has regularly labeled CNN "fake news" and accused it of being biased against his administration.

That's led to concerns about political interference from the White House as regulators review the merger.

Last week, reports claimed the DOJ sought for AT&T to divest from CNN in order for the merger to be approved.

But sources at the DOJ told The Hill that regulators rejected AT&T's offer to do so. AT&T's CEO, though, denied making such an offer and said he wouldn't entertain the idea of divesting CNN.

The DOJ’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim suggested Thursday that his agency wouldn’t be open to such sales to help the merger pass, criticizing the practice of government telling companies how to manage their businesses as preconditions for mergers.

Comcast’s merger with NBC in 2011, for example, was only approved after the companies agreed to certain conditions that regulators said would protect competition.

After saying they were confident the merger would close by the end of the year, AT&T executives are now wavering and preparing for a potential challenge.

“As of this time, the timing of the close is uncertain,” AT&T’s Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said at an investor conference on Thursday. “We continue to believe the transaction will close."

A report Wednesday claimed DOJ officials are reaching out to states to help them block the merger.