Justice Department staff recommended that AT&T sell either its DirecTV unit or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting unit, which includes news company CNN, a government official told Reuters on Thursday, on the grounds that a combined company would raise costs for rival entertainment distributors and stifle innovation. "That was made by a man who's actually a very respected person - a very, very respected person". In a separate statement, DOJ's new 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".
According to a Justice Department official, AT&T has offered to divest CNN.
The Justice Department's desire for asset sales has raised concerns about political influence on the $85.4 billion deal, given U.S. President Donald Trump's frequent criticism of CNN.
"We're prepared to litigate now", Stephenson said at a conference this week hosted by the New York Times.
"I did make a comment as to what I think", Trump acknowledged, appearing to reference previous remarks he had made on the campaign trail criticizing the AT&T deal. "I do feel you should have as many news outlets as you can-especially since so many are fake". "And likewise I have never offered to sell CNN", he said, adding that there was "absolutely no intention" that the company would sell the network. The companies had been planning to finalize the deal by the end of the year, and just last week AT&T said it was confident it would win approval for the deal since it does not involve direct competitors. Delrahim first noted Ronald Reagan's quip that the most terrifying words in the English language are "I'm from the government and I'm here to help". But, according to the Wall Street Journal, he did challenge the idea that the DOJ rarely sees a problem with "vertical mergers", the type of deal that AT&T is seeking with Time Warner.