Dems demand White House, DOJ records on AT&T-Time Warner merger

Dems demand White House, DOJ records on AT&T-Time Warner merger
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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 John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE pushed for DOJ lawyers to sue to block the deal.

Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineOVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower says California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' | EPA won't defend policy blocking grantees from serving on boards | Minnesota sues Exxon, others over climate change DOJ whistleblower: California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' Hillicon Valley: Apple's developer dispute draws lawmaker scrutiny of App Store | GOP senator blocks bill to expand mail-in and early voting | Twitter flags Trump tweet on protesters for including 'threat of harm' 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.”

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The letters were sent to Makan Delrahim, the head of antitrust at the Justice Department, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

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 CohnFormer national economic council director: I agree with 50 percent of House Democrats' HEROES Act Sunday shows preview: Congress spars over next round of coronavirus relief; GOP seeks offensive after news of Flynn 'unmasking' The Memo: Speculation grows about Fauci's future 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.”