Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during questioning at a congressional hearing today, sidestepped questions about whether President Donald Trump’s vitriol toward CNN was factoring into the Justice Department’s review of AT&T’s attempt to buy Time Warner for $85 billion.
Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, TNT, Cartoon Network and the Warner Bros. movie and television studio — for $85 billion. Justice Department antitrust division officials met last week with AT&T executives to discuss their concerns about the purchase.
The division, led by Makan Delrahim, has suggested that it might sue to block the transaction. Sources familiar with the matter have told various news outlets that the Justice Department has suggested that AT&T sell either Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN, or its El Segundo-based satellite TV unit, DirecTV, to win the government’s approval of the deal.
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., wanted to know whether the Justice Department had ordered AT&T to sell CNN, noting that Trump’s anger toward the news network is well documented.
Johnson asked whether anyone at the White House had contacted Sessions or other Justice Department officials in an effort to influence their decision on the AT&T-Time Warner deal. Sessions did not directly answer the question.
“First, I would say that I don’t accept, and cannot accept, the accuracy of that news report,” Sessions said. “We have a professional team ….”
Johnson interrupted to ask whether the Justice Department had ordered AT&T to shed CNN.
“Our work is professional. They do meet with the …,” Sessions said before being interrupted a second time by Johnson, who asked about the validity of news reports.
“I would just tell you that I’m not able to accept as accurate news reports that have come out on that,” Sessions said.