Warren backs DOJ over AT&T-Time Warner merger despite 'alarm bells'

Warren backs DOJ over AT&T-Time Warner merger despite 'alarm bells'
© Greg Nash

Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren says she'll run for reelection to Senate Free Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech Debate over ICBMs: Will 'defund our defenses' be next? MORE (D-Mass.), one of the most outspoken progressives in the Senate, said she supports the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, while also expressing concerns about the agency's autonomy under President Trump.

Warren said in a speech on Wednesday that AT&T’s $85 billion deal is an example of a merger whose scale poses a threat to competition and, consequently, consumers.

“By bringing together one of the nation’s leading content distributors and one of the world’s largest TV and entertainment companies, this merger invites higher prices, fewer choices and worse service for consumers,” the Massachusetts senator said during an event with the left-wing think tank Open Markets Institute in Washington, D.C.

Warren said, however, that while she thought AT&T’s merger with Time Warner and others like it should not be approved by the federal government, the DOJ's move to stop the merger still raises concerns.

“At the same time, the Justice Department’s move rings alarm bells. The President’s attacks on our free press have cast a cloud of suspicion over the decision to block the merger,” Warren said. “It’s essential that the courts and the public approach this case as they would any other — based on the law and the facts, and not on President Trump’s repeated efforts to punish his enemies.”

Critics of the DOJ's decision have called the agency’s autonomy into question, suggesting that Trump or others in the administration influenced the decision. They warn that Trump might be using the merger to exact revenge on Time Warner-owned CNN, a cable news network he frequently derides.

Trump himself has criticized the potential merger, calling it "a deal that's not good for the country."

The DOJ and AT&T feuded over whether or not an offer was made for Time Warner to spin off CNN to complete the deal.

Warren in her speech directly attacked the DOJ’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, for being influenced by Trump’s politics.

“President Trump has made it clear that he expects his agency heads to carry out his orders — and Delrahim is no exception,” she said.

“I’ll be honest; I’m deeply worried about the Antitrust Division under President Trump,” Warren continued. “While DOJ’s action on the AT&T-Time Warner merger is a good step, one case alone does not prove that DOJ will be the strong antitrust enforcer that America needs.”

— Harper Neidig contributed