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11/09/2017

Justice, AT&T trade accusations over CNN sale

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and AT&T traded accusations on Wednesday over whether the company would have to sell off CNN, the cable network frequently feuding with President Trump, as a condition of its merger with Time Warner.

Sources at the Justice Department told The Hill and other news outlets that antitrust officials had rejected an offer from AT&T on Monday to divest in CNN in order to win approval for the $85 billion deal.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the offer did not alleviate their concerns that the deal could potentially harm the public by giving the new company too much power to deliver only the content it produces through AT&T’s networks.

 AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, however, flatly denied that his company had ever entertained the idea of selling CNN to win approval of the deal.

“Until now, we’ve never commented on our discussions with the DOJ. But given DOJ’s statement this afternoon, it’s important to set the record straight,” said Stephenson, referring to the anonymous quotations from Justice sources.

“Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so.”

It is highly unusual for details of such offers to emerge in public, and the startling back-and-forth between Stephenson and the Justice Department will raise new questions about whether the deal can be consummated.

It was also impossible not to consider Trump’s ongoing feud with CNN, which is run by a former NBC executive who worked with Trump on “The Apprentice.”

The president frequently rips CNN as “fake news,” and earlier this year tweeted out a video from his 2007 "WrestleMania" appearance that was edited to show Trump beating up someone with the CNN logo imposed on their head.

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