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Sessions refuses to say if White House asked about AT&T - Time Warner merger

Reuters  |  WASHINGTON 

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday declined to answer when asked if any officials contacted the Justice Department to discuss the government's review of AT&Inc's proposed $85.4 billion of Inc .

"I am not able to comment on conversations or communications the Department of Justice top people have with top people the White House," Sessions said House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing.

President Donald Trump as candidate had vowed to block the and has repeatedly criticized Warner's CNN network.

reported that the Justice Department demanded last week that AT&divest DirecTV or Warner's Turner Broadcasting unit in order to win approval of the deal.AT&Chief Executive Randall Stephenson denied on Thursday that he had offered to sell CNN to win approval. "We're prepared to litigate now" over the deal, he said forum.

The said in statement last week that Trump did not talk to Sessions about the and "no official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter."

adviser Kellyanne Conway separately told CNN last week that the would not interfere with the review.

Trump has repeatedly heaped criticism on CNN and called the network "fake "

The U.S. Justice Department could file lawsuit as early as this month to challenge the deal, sources told last week. AT&is preparing to fight any lawsuit aggressively and would use Trump's attacks on CNN as part of its legal case, the sources said.

The deal is opposed by an array of consumer groups and smaller television networks on grounds that it would give AT&too much power over the content it would distribute to its wireless customers.

The DirectTV or Turner Broadcasting concessions demanded by the Justice Department's antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, suggest he changed his view of the since saying in 2016 interview that the deal was not "major antitrust problem."

officials have denied the divestiture requests were because of CNN but rather were based on concerns AT&could hike prices on rival content distributors and block innovations.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Sarah Lynch and Diane Bartz; Editing by Chris Reese and Dan Grebler)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, November 15 2017. 00:44 IST
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