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

Manhattan’s East Village. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Stephenson, however, made it clear that AT&T was prepared to fight attempts to block the deal. But government lawyers appear to have some reservations about the deal as proposed, and they could seek to force a combined AT&T and Time Warner to sell Turner.

Gary Ginsberg has reportedly replied to Jared Kushner that Time Warner, CNN's parent company, would not be able to do that, The Wall Street Journal said, citing its sources.

AT&T executives have consistently expressed optimism about the deal being approved.

Speaking at a conference in New York, Stephenson disputed claims he offered to sell CNN to win approval of AT&T's takeover of Time Warner. The Justice official said no decision on the deal has been reached yet and that conversations continue. As president, Trump has often blasted CNN for its coverage of him and his administration, disparaging it and its reporters as "fake news".

The newspaper's source in the White House said that this was meant merely as a joke and Kushner did not mean to be taken seriously.

The wireless giant had previously said that it expected the acquisition to take effect by the end of this year. As a candidate, Trump vowed to block the deal shortly after it was announced, but has not addressed the issue publicly as president. The other option would be for AT&T to sell its DirectTV division, the source said.

AT&T has argued against selling off either company's assets, as it believes this would undercut the rationale for the tie-up.

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Several Democratic senators warned the deal would lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. "It's hard to imagine an antitrust argument that will be compelling" from the government, he said.

"We have been working very diligently on a litigation strategy and a litigation plan", he said, adding: "We would obviously ask for an expedited hearing".

Antitrust experts were hard-pressed to think of examples of blocked "vertical" deals, in which the acquiring company isn't a direct competitor of the company being purchased.

"The Department is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts", the agency said.

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

Stephens reiterated confidence in the deal, saying "these types of mergers bring great benefit to customers and have very routinely been approved by the DOJ and the federal government".

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