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 SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign 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 CicillineFive takeaways from Big Tech's blowout earnings What factors will shape Big Tech regulation? Hillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence 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.