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AT&T’s CEO Meets Trump’s Justice

 |  November 26, 2017

Posted by New York Times

AT&T’s CEO Meets Trump’s Justice

By Bret Stephens

“I have no evidence that there’s been inappropriate behavior. What I have is a really peculiar timeline.”

I’m on the line with Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive. I’ve heard other C.E.O.s offer up brutal judgments of this and previous administrations — invariably in off-the-record interviews. This one’s on the record.

Stephenson is battling the Justice Department, which this week sued to block AT&T’s $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner. The suit marks the first time in nearly 40 years that Justice has tried to quash such a deal, known as a vertical merger. The Obama administration approved a similar merger — one that brings together companies that don’t compete and that offer different products and services — between Comcast and NBC Universal in 2011.

What’s different this time? Vertical mergers have long had liberal critics, and Senate liberals Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and others have expressed public misgivings about AT&T’s bid.

But this is supposed to be a pro-business, antiregulation, conservative administration. And Makan Delrahim, a political appointee who served as Donald Trump’s deputy White House counsel before taking over Justice’s Antitrust Division, previously said of the deal, “I don’t see this as a major antitrust problem.”

That was before he got his current job. Once he did, Stephenson says, “Temperatures change rather quickly, and Delrahim’s own attitude changes rather quickly.”

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