Back to the Trump AT&T Smackdown

It now seems increasingly clear – because of the lack of any credible alternative explanation – that the White House is trying to squeeze AT&T because of the President’s vendetta against CNN. Rupert Murdoch’s role in the story is just the latest new development. But there’s something else I wanted to share, courtesy of a lawyer friend.

I don’t know how I hadn’t heard this before. But before Makan Delrahim was confirmed to lead the Antitrust Division at the Justice Department, what was he doing? He was Deputy Assistant to President Trump and Deputy Counsel in the White House Counsel’s office. Indeed, he was charged with (successfully) shepherding the nomination and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch through the Senate.

To be clear, this isn’t some new revelation. It’s just something I didn’t know. But it is an illuminating piece of the puzzle. If Delrahim needed to be acquainted with President Trump’s feelings about the ATT/Time Warner acquisition, serving as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy White House Counsel would have been plenty to acquaint him.

As I’ve said before, I think these kinds of mergers/acquisitions are bad policy. But under current antitrust case law there’s really no reason or justification for blocking the acquisition or forcing this divestiture.

There’s little question what is going on here. It’s still yet to get that much attention because none of the players have any interest in saying what’s happening: not AT&T, not CNN or Time Warner. Even other news organizations are partly put in a bind since they’re competitors of CNN. But there’s no question what is happening here. It’s the President using his vast powers to try to damage a news organization that won’t come to heel.

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