Democrats Seek Hearings on Trump's Role in AT&T-Time Warner Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Two House Democrats called for hearings on AT&T Inc.’s $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc., expressing concern over a “troubling pattern of potential political interference by President Trump and his administration.”

Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island said Trump “has repeatedly criticized CNN for the nature of its coverage of him” and cited a July tweet by Trump in which he attacked CNN as “fake news and garbage journalism.”

CNN is owned by Time Warner and would become part of AT&T if the deal is approved by regulators. The Justice Department is pressuring AT&T to sell Time Warner’s Turner division, which owns CNN or other cable networks, or to divest the DirecTV satellite service, according to people familiar with the matter.

The agency is concerned that without a divestiture, the transaction will give AT&T too much power in the media industry, the people said. But lawmakers including Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, have questioned whether the Trump administration is playing a role in the antitrust review.

Their letter to Representative Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who’s chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, also cited a New York Times story in July quoting an anonymous source saying the White House wants to use CNN as a “potential point of leverage” in the AT&T deal review. A press official for Goodlatte didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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