President Donald Trump reportedly ordered then National Economic Council director Gary Cohn to pressure the Justice Department to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, The New Yorker has reported.
The report is part of a probe into the ties between the Trump White House and Fox News, with The New Yorker revealing details that contradict the administration’s statements that the president had no role in the DOJ’s lawsuit attempting to halt the merger.
According to The New Yorker, a few months before the DOJ filed its antitrust lawsuit, Trump called John Kelly, who had just become the chief of staff, into the Oval Office along with Cohn and said, “I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened! I’ve mentioned it 50 times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!”
Cohn reportedly refused to do what Trump told him, knowing it would be “highly improper” for the president to involve himself in stopping the merger.
A former White House official told The New Yorker that “The president does not understand the nuances of antitrust law or policy. But he wanted to bring down the hammer.”
Trump administration officials, however, said that political considerations did not influence the government’s actions on the lawsuits.
Trump repeatedly criticized the $85 billion deal during the 2016 presidential campaign and, once in office, vowed to block the merger, according to The Hill.
A federal judge ruled against the DOJ last June, allowing the merger to go forward, and, following an appeal by the Trump administration, a federal appeals court last month upheld the decision.
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