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Top Dems Request Docs on DOJ Lawsuit to Block AT&T and Time-Warner Merger After AG Refuses to Answer Questions

Feb 8, 2018
Press Release

Top Dems Request Docs on DOJ Lawsuit

to Block AT&T and Time-Warner Merger

After AG Refuses to Answer Questions

 

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 8, 2018)—Today, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Ranking Member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. David N. Cicilline, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Regualtory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, sent a letter to Attorney Gerneral Jeff Sessions requesting documents relating to the decision by the Department of Justice to file a lawsuit to block the merger between AT&T and Time-Warner—in light of the President’s public animus against Time-Warner’s news organization, CNN.

“Although we take no position on the legality of the transaction or the merits of the lawsuit itself, we are deeply concerned by reports of inappropriate interference by the White House and, in particular, your refusal during your testimony on November 14, 2017 to answer questions relating to your communications with the White House regarding this matter,” the Democrats wrote.

President Trump made clear on the campaign trail that he would never allow this merger to go through because of his hatred of CNN.

Over the course of the past year, there have been numerous reports of meetings directly with Trump, his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, and various Justice Department officials, raising serious concerns about whether the Department’s independence has been compromised as a result of political pressure.

“This conduct is, in our opinion, an overt and unprecedented threat to interfere inappropriately with the deliberations of career officials at the Department of Justice,” the Members wrote. “Their mission is to enforce the laws of this nation independently and in a non-partisan manner—not to use them as a weapon to attack press outlets that serve their constitutional functions and express criticism of the President.”

At a hearing in November before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Ranking Member Cicilline asked Attorney General Sessions whether he discussed the merger with anyone at the White House, but he refused to answer. Sessions did not assert executive privilege—or any other valid privilege—but claimed:  “I am not able to comment on conversations or communications that Department of Justice top people have with top people at the White House.” 

Under President George W. Bush, well-established Department guidelines expressly limited communications with the White House on “pending criminal or civil-enforcement matters” unless a communication “is important for the performance of the President’s duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.”  These guidelines included matters pertaining to the civil enforcement of the antitrust laws, such as the Department’s review of mergers and acquisitions.

The Democrats requested all documents and communications related to the decision to sue AT&T, DirectTV Group Holdings LLC, and Time Warner Inc. and all documents and communications identifying any contact between any employee of the White House or any official or unofficial adviser to the President with any Department of Justice employee regarding the merger.

Click here to read today’s letter.

 

115th Congress