The President of the United States loathes CNN. That’s no secret. But will his disdain for the network and its coverage of his administration hinder the expected passage of a major corporate merger? That would be extraordinary, but apparently, it’s possible.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is concerned about new reports suggesting that the Trump administration might want to punish CNN for its coverage by using as “leverage” the impending $85.4 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner, the latter of which is CNN’s parent company.
In a letter to AG Jeff Sessions on Friday, obtained by HuffPo, Klobuchar, the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy & Consumer Rights, wrote that “the transaction should be judged solely on its impact on competition, innovation, and consumers,” and should not be used as “leverage for political gain,” an notion that was suggested in an article written on Wednesday by Michael Gyrnbaum of The New York Times.
“White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T,” Grynbaum wrote.
On Thursday, citing “a source familiar with President Trump’s thinking,” conservative outlet The Daily Caller wrote that “the White House does not support the pending merger between CNN’s parent company Time Warner and AT&T if Jeff Zucker remains president of CNN.”
This echoes the speculation made by The New York Post last month, that in order for the merger to be approved by the administration, Zucker must go.
The DOJ is reviewing the proposed merger, (which Trump was against while still a candidate), but it’s still widely expected to approve it by the end of 2017, primarily because AT&T (telecom) and Time Warner (TV/content) aren’t direct competitors, something AT&T chief Randall Stephenson has continually argued.
This whole ordeal has cast a cloud over the business world, writes The New York Times, which is watching this unusually long regulatory process with a great interest.
“Any political interference in antitrust enforcement is unacceptable,” Klobuchar wrote. “Even more concerning, in this instance, is that it appears that some advisers to the President may believe that it is appropriate for the government to use its law enforcement authority to alter or censor the press.”