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AT&T Lays Groundwork to Challenge Antitrust Lawsuit's Legitimacy

"AT&T Inc. is considering an unusual bid to seek testimony from the Justice Department's antitrust chief in the coming trial over its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc.," confirms the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 14, Kendall, FitzGerald), "part of the companies' effort to challenge the legitimacy of the government's lawsuit." AT&T has publicly questioned the department's motives in the months since the Justice Department sued to block the deal last November, often citing President Trump's frequent campaign pledge to disallow the deal and his repeated disparagement of Time Warner's CNN unit. AT&T and Time Warner have drafted a list of people they may put on the witness stand at trial. According to Journal sources, the roster indeed includes Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim. The Trump nominee made the decision to challenge the deal in court. If he is called, the newspaper notes, "it could escalate tensions in a dispute that already has seen its share of tense moments and is shaping up as a pitched legal battle between a corporate giant and an unorthodox administration whose president is given to off-the-cuff comments."

New York Times (Feb. 14, Kang) sources add that AT&T has also petitioned for internal communications between Delrahim’s office and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As part of that request, they reveal, AT&T has asked for e-mail, telephone, and other communications between the White House and Justice Department officials. "The deal would create a media and telecom giant with AT&T's wireless and satellite television service and Time Warner's movies and television assets," according to the Times. "The deal is expected to transform the media landscape and set up the company to have a powerful grip over how consumers