House Democrats are demanding documents from the White House and Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the AT&T-Time Warner merger following a report that President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE pushed for DOJ lawyers to sue to block the deal.
Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerUnrequited rage: The demand for mob justice in the Rittenhouse trial Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineHouse votes to censure Gosar and boot him from committees House to vote Wednesday to censure Gosar, remove him from committees Gosar faces increasing odds of censure on House floor MORE (D-R.I.) sent letters to administration officials expressing concern about the report in The New Yorker earlier this week and requesting records detailing the government’s handling of the $85 billion merger.
“Antitrust enforcement must be guided by the rule of law, not wielded as a political weapon to reward friends and punish enemies,” the lawmakers wrote. “Moreover, any effort to use the antitrust laws to censor, undermine, or retaliate against the press is a threat to the First Amendment and a vibrant democracy.”
Neither responded to requests for comment, but the administration has denied any political interference in the review of the merger.
According to The New Yorker report, Trump had ordered Gary CohnGary David CohnHow Biden should sell his infrastructure bill On The Money: Wall Street zeros in on Georgia runoffs | Seven states sue regulator over 'true lender' rule on interest rates | 2021 deficit on track to reach .3 trillion Former Trump economic aide Gary Cohn joins IBM MORE, his former top economic adviser, to urge the DOJ to intervene in the deal.
“I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened!” Trump reportedly told his former chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE in an Oval Office meeting in the summer of 2017. “I’ve mentioned it fifty times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!”
The Justice Department eventually sued to block the merger, but lost in court and later on appeal.
AT&T had suggested that the lawsuit was politically motivated, but the trial judge in the case dismissed the company’s request to include that line of inquiry in the case.
Trump has long been critical of cable network CNN, part of Time Warner, accusing it of unfairly covering his administration.
In their letter on Thursday, Nadler and Cicilline requested documents beginning shortly after the 2016 election through February of this year. The lawmakers are seeking communications between the Justice Department and the White House, Trump’s transition team or his campaign.
“Even the appearance of White House interference in antitrust law enforcement matters undermines public trust in the Department of Justice’s integrity and tarnishes meritorious enforcement by the Antitrust Division,” they wrote. “The fact of actual interference would constitute a serious abuse of power.”