The pathway forward for AT&T’s pending $85 billion merger with Time Warner goes through President Donald Trump’s apprehensions about the deal, concerns that don’t appear to be going away any time soon.
The real estate magnate chided the deal on the campaign trail, saying, “It’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
Critics argue that the increased concentration of media and telecom companies hurts competition and consumers. Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, also opposes the deal.
Trump’s apprehensions with the merger stem partly from CNN, a subsidiary of Time Warner, which he argues covers him unfairly. Trump has called the network a “fake news” network as the outlet’s personalities have repeatedly criticized him as he’s taken the highest office in the land. Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino claims that Time Warner might need to spin off CNN as a separate entity to make the deal work.
But it’s not just CNN’s biased coverage against him that has led to President Trump’s opposition to the merger. During the campaign, his economic adviser Peter Navarro–now the director of the newly created National Trade Council in the Trump White House–said Trump is generally opposed to the consolidation of media power in a handful of companies:
The very corporations that have gained from shipping America’s factories and jobs offshore are the very same media conglomerates now pushing Hillary Clinton’s agenda. She is the official candidate of the multinational ruling elite.
NBC, and its Clinton megaphone MSNBC, were once owned by General Electric, a leader in offshoring factories to China. Now NBC has been bought by Comcast, which is specifically targeting the Chinese market – even as Comcast’s anchors and reporters at MSNBC engage in their Never Trump tactics.
AT&T, the original and abusive “Ma Bell” telephone monopoly, is now trying to buy Time Warner and thus the wildly anti-Trump CNN. Donald Trump would never approve such a deal because it concentrates too much power in the hands of the too and powerful few.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), once confirmed as attorney general, would the merger. When asked by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) about whether there would be side deals requiring CNN to be spun off for the merger to be approved, Sessions said, “The law is not crystal clear about what’s lawful and what’s not lawful and what the antitrust division is required to do and it leave dangers, if not politicization of it, it remains dangers of policy agendas getting embroiled in it.”
The law’s ambiguity allows for flexibility when it comes to Trump’s decision on the merger because he has not made up his mind yet on the matter.
President Trump says that he has “not seen all the facts.”
He told Axios, “I have been on the record in the past of saying it’s too big and we have to keep competition. So, but other than that, I haven’t, you know, I haven’t seen any of the facts, yet. I’m sure that will be presented to me and to the people within government.”