AT&T CEO: DOJ never demanded CNN sale in Time Warner deal

Donald Trump

The deal's holdup has raised suspicions of political retaliation - even from people who oppose the deal entirely. "We'll see how it all plays out", Trump said aboard Air Force One, according to the White House's official transcript of the exchange. CNN has been a favorite punching bag for Trump, who has maligned the network repeatedly on the campaign trail, after winning last year's election, and since taking office this January.

Manne said he sees the Justice Department's remarks as "part of a settlement negotiation".

"I do feel you should have as many news outlets as you can - especially since so many are fake", Trump continued, according to a pool report. Time Warner shares fell just under 1% to close at $87.05. But AT&T has said it doesn't want to lose the all-news network in the deal. Stephenson, however, made it clear that AT&T was prepared to fight attempts to block the deal. The agency has a decades-long history of approving similar deals, including the merger of Comcast and NBCUniversal in 2011.

Delrahim has said he prefers "structural" changes to a deal, like selling off assets, rather than having the government monitor a company's promises to abide by certain conditions, as was done with Comcast.

The deal is opposed by an array of rivals and consumer groups anxious that it would give the combined company too much power.

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AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner Inc (N:) in October 2016. Several Democratic lawmakers have also pushed back against the combination.

The president has frequently referred to CNN as "fake news". "It's time to settle, or it's time to go to court", he said. "It's hard to imagine an antitrust argument that will be compelling" from the government, he said.

In an emailed statement, the Justice Department said that it "is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts".

The DoJ has said it does not comment on ongoing investigations.

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