AT&T CEO says open to litigation on Time Warner deal

Manhattan’s East Village. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Manhattan’s East Village. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

It has been waiting for the Justice Department's blessing.

The White House also denies Trump spoke with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the merger deal. The U.S. President, Donald Trump was one of the merger's fiercest objectors. Another option: selling DirecTV, the satellite broadcaster that AT&T bought two years ago.

At Monday's meeting, AT&T offered divestment from CNN, but that was flatly rejected by the department's Antitrust Division, Justice Department sources said. AT&T can deliver this video over the internet, including its cellular network.

AT&T is prepared to fight any divestitures required to win regulatory approval of the deal, according to sources familiar with the matter.

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Kennedy International Airport", said Skúli Mogensen, the founder and CEO of Wow Air , in a statement, Business Insider reports . The carrier also plans to up the number of flights out of Newark Liberty International airport to 13 per week starting in May.

Several Democratic senators warned the deal would lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on any of the proceedings.

Democrats and liberal groups are raising concern over reports that the Department of Justice pushed for the sale of CNN as a prerequisite to approve the mega merger between AT&T and Time Warner, Politico reported. The specific reasons for such a demand aren't clear.

The Justice Department has historically been insulated from political pressure.

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In a statement, the Justice Department said it "is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts".

But Trump's strongly voiced disdain for CNN has raised the spectre of political influence behind the scenes. As president, Trump has often blasted CNN for its coverage of him and his administration, disparaging it and its reporters as "fake news". Trump's hand-picked antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, said he has "never been instructed by the White House on this or any other transaction under review by the antitrust division".

If the company that wants to acquire the other - in this case AT&T and Time Warner, respectively - cannot agree on conditions with the Justice Department, the government can sue to block the deal. "For me it would be virtually impossible to not take that into account".

AT&T chief financial officer John Stephens told a conference in NY "there are all kinds of benefits" to the combination and noted that the government has not blocked this kind of vertical tie-up in decades. Stephenson was responding on a question on whether he would consider selling Turner or HBO. "Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so". Shares of AT&T saw little movement in European trading Thursday. But most of those involved direct competitors.

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The deal, often described as the biggest media merger of the decade, is undergoing a hard DOJ review. He will argue the vertical deal will not harm competition and is similar to deals approved in the past, a source briefed on the matter said.

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