Is DoJ v. AT&T/TW Just a Coincidence?

By Paul S. Maxwell Paul Maxwell Report Archives

For the record: "As an example of the power structure I'm fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few." -- Donald Trump, 10/22/16  From The Wall Street Journal: "The Justice Department is laying the groundwork for a potential lawsuit challenging AT&T Inc.’s planned acquisition of Time Warner Inc. if the government and companies can’t agree on a settlement, according to people familiar with the matter.  "The department’s antitrust division is preparing for litigation in case it decides to sue to block the deal, these people said."  From Recode Daily: “Will Donald Trump’s justice department really sue to stop the AT&T-Time Warner deal?  Or does it just want some leverage? It’s a very expensive question.”  Ummm ... what to think?

Do the President’s rants about fake news and CNN’s Jeff Zucker have a direct effect on Department of Justice policy?  Is it just a coincidence?  Or are there grounds to change public policy regarding so-called vertical mergers when the companies involved do not compete?  Or was the timing, as the President headed to Asia, just a poke in the eye via the stock market at the companies?  Or was it just new head of antitrust Makan Delrahim getting used to his new job?

Your guess is as good as mine. 

In a surreal conversation with Brian Stelter last Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway did say, "We're not going to interfere with that here … The Department of Justice is independent."

But the President’s recent interview with radio host Larry O’Connor might better tell the tale.  When asked about his demands that the Department of Justice investigate the Clintons (again), the President ranted about his inability to tell the folks at Justice what to do (even though he did, grudgingly, acknowledge that Justice is somewhat independent of the White House).

The President would like to be king … and that’s just one more departure from the structure and norms of the once long-running American democratic experiment.

Random Notes

On a more long-term important note from Monday’s Politico’s Morning Tech, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Saturday called on tech giants to help the U.S. "retaliate" against Russia for the election interference.  "What we ought to do with regard to the Russians is retaliate, seriously retaliate against the Russians," McConnell told conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt in an interview on MSNBC.  "These tech firms could be helpful in ... giving us a way to do that."

There’s an even bigger issue here: Can any government control large, rich, global conglomerates?  For my part, I say good for the European Union for making an attempt to hold some to account.

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