The Justice Department is suing AT&T to stop its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, setting the stage for an epic legal battle with the telecom giant.
It could also create a new headache for President Donald Trump, whose public statements have raised suspicions that he might have interfered with the department’s decision, potentially undermining its legal case. The White House and DOJ’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, have both said that the president did not tell Delrahim what to do.
In a press release, Delrahim said that a combined AT&T-Time Warner would “greatly harm American consumers” by hiking television bills and hampering innovation, particularly in online television service. The DOJ said AT&T would be able to charge rival distributors such as cable companies “hundreds of millions of dollars more per year” for Time Warner’s programming — payments that would ultimately get passed down to consumers through their cable bills.
In an emailed statement Monday, AT&T general counsel David McAtee said the lawsuit is a “radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent” and that the company is confident that it will prevail in court.
AT&T runs the country’s second largest wireless network and is the biggest provider of traditional satellite and cable TV services. Time Warner owns HBO, CNN, TBS and other networks, as well as the Warner Bros. movie studio.
The government’s objections to the deal surprised many on Wall Street. AT&T and…