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Communications AT&T Government The Courts United States

Judge Rules AT&T Can't See Trump White House Communications About Time Warner Merger 84

The judge presiding over the Justice Department's attempt to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger has ruled that the White House's private communications on the merger will not be released. The Verge reports: When the department said in November that it would sue to block the mega-merger, thoughts immediately turned to the White House. President Trump has made no secret of his disdain for CNN, and some watchers questioned whether the White House's hand was present, guiding the Justice Department as a way to exact revenge on the Time Warner-owned property. The Justice Department has denied any wrongdoing, and said it is only looking to block the merger on the grounds that it is anti-competitive. But to prove the theory, AT&T and Time Warner requested communications between the Justice Department and White House that could have shown the department was engaging in "selective enforcement." In today's decision, the judge on the case said the companies had fallen "far short" of the legal bar required to receive the documents.
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Judge Rules AT&T Can't See Trump White House Communications About Time Warner Merger

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  • This seems very close to a blank check to the White House to engage in selective enforcement of anti-trust rules whenever they please. This ruling says that it is close to impossible to establish a clear line of political influence even when the circumstantial evidence for political retribution influencing it is pretty heavy. I'm in general in favor of stronger enforcement of anti-trust laws, but not if it is going to be done in a capricious fashion for political and personal goals.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What has it not? Selective enforcement is the name of the executive privilege.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hetero ( 5159127 )
        2006: The AT&T split from 25 years prior was ondone. All the Baby Bells became again AT&T. Didn't seem to make much difference. This happened in the Bush administration.

        2008 and Onward: Too big to jail, Eric Holder: "The size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy."
        • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

          2006: The AT&T split from 25 years prior was ondone. All the Baby Bells became again AT&T. Didn't seem to make much difference.

          Sure it did. Now you have Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and a few smaller carriers. AT&T does not have overwhelming monopoly power anymore.

        • All antitrust actions include an expiration date. General Oil was split up, and after the expiration date, they began to merge again. AT&T is no exception, and contrary to your statement, they began merging well before 2006. CenturyLink (which wasn't a Baby Bell in the beginning, but it picked up USWest) AT&T, and Verizon remain.

          Sure, 3 is much smaller than the original 7 (tellcore doesn't count because it's only a standards body, and it was bought up by a company who also isn't a phone service prov

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The AT&T merger is being blocked on the grounds it is bad for the consumer and AT&T and Time Warner are already on record stating it will allow them to raise prices.

      Just because "Trump" does not excuse you for your poor logic on how bad this merger would be for consumers.

      AT&T and Time Warner simply should not be merging.

      And you thinking the merger would be good just because of "Trump" does not speak well of your ability to think.

      • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2018 @10:55PM (#56161521) Homepage

        And you thinking the merger would be good just because of "Trump" does not speak well of your ability to think.

        Hmm? Absolutely nowhere did I say that. The merger is unambiguously bad. But I really, really also don't want a precedent where the President (whether Trump or anyone else) can easily use selective enforcement anti-trust law for political goals. We're in a situation where there's really no good result. The best case scenario would have been that the White House turned over everything relevant and it became clear from the documentation that there was no inappropriate influence, and then the merger gets blocked. But in order for that to happen, that material needs to become available.

        • Anti-trust laws, pretty much any laws the DOJ prosecutes (or not) has politics involved. Microsoft donated enough money to get theirs to disappear, if TW or AT&T hadn't bet on the establishment horses in the last election they too would be at the big boys table.

          This is a good thing. The decision is also a good thing - private corporations should not be able to see into private/classified communications just because they throw enough money around.

          If and when this communication gets declassified and relea

        • At this point, selective enforcement of antitrust law is better than non-enforcement of antitrust law. This would be a much better debate if it wasn't so clear that the clear policy choice would be to break both of those companies into a million pieces and to choke slam all of their CxOs.
        • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

          The merger is unambiguously bad. But I really, really also don't want a precedent where the President (whether Trump or anyone else) can easily use selective enforcement anti-trust law for political goals

          Huh? It's been that way for decades. The Microsoft anti-trust lawsuit went forward because Microsoft did not donate to political campaigns (at the time). They quickly fixed that mistake, and the lawsuit went away when a business-friendly administration took over.

          That's the big lesson of large corporations: You need to donate a decent amount of money to both political parties. Otherwise, you'll be at a disadvantage to those companies who "have their ear" of Congress and the Executive.

    • Emperor Donald the trust-buster is going to really, really enrage Hillaryist corporate shills.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2018 @09:04PM (#56161121) Journal

    The merger between AT&T and Time-Warner should be blocked. This is a case of the president doing the right thing for corrupt reasons, which I suppose we should take as a win.

    But ultimately, I suspect the merger will go forward. AT&T and Time-Warner simply have better lawyers than the Trump administration.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Narcocide ( 102829 )

      This is a case of the president doing the right thing for corrupt reasons, which I suppose we should take as a win.

      This is true, but the fact you and I can agree on something like this is a really bad omen.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Well, you may believe it's the right action for the wrong reason, but this decision means you can't prove it.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        I think we can prove that it's the right action, anyway. We just can't prove that it's for the wrong reason. :-)

    • What is corrupt about the President voicing his opinions on matters to his employees in the Justice department? If you were the president of a company, would you accept censorship of your communications with your employees? Doing it deceptively or shrouded in secrecy is a different matter, butt if he made on attempt to hide his actions, then he is well within his rights to speak his mind.
      • Well, except that in the US Government, the Judicial branch is over the Executive branch, not the other way around. Federal judges don't answer to trump. Their appointments are for life. Trump's term is only 4 or 8 years.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Huge companies merging is bad for America. Does no one realize that? Who fucking cares about the presidents motivations. Hyper-consolidation and the resulting lack of competition exacerbates every problem with our countries "free market" (LOL, free market)

  • Just because (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kenh ( 9056 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2018 @12:11AM (#56161741) Homepage Journal

    Just because you can imagine that a crime has occurred, doesn't mean you get to breech Executive Privlege and are owed transcripts of communications you only imagine exists.

    If the lawyers demanding transcripts of any/all communication between the White House and DOJ had anything stronger than a 'belief' that something illegal 'may' have happened, they might get what they are asking for.

    I seem to recall the previous administration refused to share communications between the White House and DOJ regarding the "Fast 'n Furious" gun-running fiasco when Congress asked for it - remember, Eric Holder was found in contempt of Congress in that case? I'm sure your outrage then, when people's actual lives were lost, not the prospect of possibly higher cable bills...

    • More that just higher cable bills! CNN is at stake! Think of CNN!

      I need a news organization to threaten memers with a dox.

  • Translation: We know we're breaking the law, but want proof that we're being singled out for enforcement due to political reasons.

    I frown on selective enforcement in general, but in this case it's a law that shouldn't be violated by anyone.

  • The gamification of propaganda took longer than expected to arrive. Folks have been hinting around this for a while, notably FB and Twitter, but an actual game developed expressly for this is new. Orwell would be impressed.

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