Officials taking aim at AT&T, Time Warner Cable merge

Trump in August retweeted and then deleted a cartoon showing a “Trump” train plowing into a figure labeled “CNN.”

Officials taking aim at AT&T, Time Warner Cable merge

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing telecom giant AT&T in an attempt to challenge the carrier's plan to acquire media giant Time Warner.

In an emailed statement Monday, AT&T general counsel David McAtee said the lawsuit is a "radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent" and that the company is confident that it will prevail in court.

Seeing an attempt to block its buyout out of Time Warner as a "radical" departure by the US government, AT&T is preparing for a fight to see the $85 billion deal through.

"This merger will not eliminate a single competitor", said Daniel Petrocelli an At&T attorney.

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On the campaign trail previous year, Trump said the deal would give AT&T too much power, and would result in the "concentration of power in the hands of too few".

AT&T's lawyer adds the DOJ will have a hard time proving their case, because Time Warner and At&T are not direct competitors. The company's chief executive, Randall Stephenson, held a news conference Monday immediately after receiving the Justice Department lawsuit to argue the company's case.

The United States' second largest wireless carrier offered to buy Time Warner in October past year to gain control of cable TV channels HBO and CNN, and film studio Warner Bros as well as a number of other coveted media assets.

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Consumer advocates, including Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, applauded the DOJ's action. In the meantime, the Department approved "hundreds" of such deals, AT&T said.

Trump spoke out against the deal as a presidential candidate, and there was widespread speculation that he might try to block it to punish CNN, a Time Warner property whose coverage of him he frequently criticizes.

The Justice Department wants AT&T to sell assets.

Still, the Comcast deal didn't come without strings: regulators imposed several conditions meant to stop the company from using its new power to quash upstarts like Netflix. Bloomberg TV also complained that it was exiled in Comcast's channel lineups far from other news and business networks.

As for past mergers that were allowed to go through under certain conditions, like the Comcast/NBC Universal deal, those companies failed to deliver on promises to protect consumers, advocates say.

This is not AT&T's first antitrust tangle with the federal government over a major acquisition bid.

AT&T has long maintained that acquiring Time Warner would benefit consumers, saying that pairing Time Warner's content with AT&T's distribution will foster innovation, disrupt the current pay-TV industry, and make TV more affordable for consumers due to targeted advertising and the elimination of traditional all-in-one cable bundles.

Sadie Gurman contributed from Washington.

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