The New Yorker is reporting that President Donald Trump ordered Gary Cohn, then Trump’s chief economic adviser, to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger last summer. If true, the action could raise an additional allegation of the abuse of power and a direct lie to the American public. Months later, Trump expressly denied playing any role in the decision to sue to oppose the $85 billion merger. Trump’s intense dislike for CNN (owned by Time Warner) had been a long source of speculation that he was seeking to punish the cable network for its criticism of him and his Administration.
Trump is quoted as directly ordering the lawsuit and expressly frustration that the order was not carried out. He reportedly told Cohn and then White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that “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!”
Reportedly Cohn later told Kelly not to call the Justice Department because “We are not going to do business that way.” Indeed, it is not supposed to work that way. The White House has always maintained a separation from decisions of the Justice Department to avoid the politicalizing of our legal system.
In November 2017, Trump was asked directly about the merger and possible lawsuit to oppose it. Trump said that he opposed the merger as “not good for the country” but he was “not going to get involved, it is litigation.”
Last week an appellate court upheld a federal judge ruling that the merger is lawful and did not harm the public.
The issue however is not the merits. Not only is Trump accused of attempting to pressure the Justice Department but just last November he expressly denied applying such pressure.