CfA Calls on DOJ IG to Investigate Murdoch Role in AT&T/Time-Warner Merger
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2017
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) asked Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate whether Rupert Murdoch, in conjunction with White House officials, has been attempting to interfere with the Department of Justice’s review of the AT&T/Time Warner merger.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Rupert Murdoch’s fingerprints appear to be all over the AT&T/Time Warner merger. It’s hard to believe it is just a coincidence that to win DOJ approval for the merger, AT&T must agree to sell a network that the president has called an ‘enemy of the people’. The Inspector General should investigate whether the White House and Rupert Murdoch have been scheming to interfere with the DOJ review process.”
News reports indicate that twice in the past six months – first in May and then in August – Murdoch called AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson seeking to purchase CNN. Stephenson has been adamant that the broadcast network is not for sale.
Reports also indicate that Murdoch speaks regularly with President Trump, if not on a daily basis, and the two dined together shortly before both of Murdoch’s calls to Stephenson. President Trump regularly criticizes CNN, and White House advisors, including Steven Bannon, have expressed a desire to use the proposed merger as “leverage” against CNN. DOJ recently recommended that AT&T sell either its DirecTV unit or Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting unit, which includes CNN, to win antitrust approval of AT&T’s $85.4 billion deal to buy Time Warner.
A group of Democratic senators, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, ranking member of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, have twice written to DOJ requesting information about political interference with the merger, but have received no response.
Additionally, the head of DOJ’s antitrust division expressed support for the merger before he joined the department. Last year, Makan Delrahim, then a Pepperdine law professor, said he didn’t “see this as a major antitrust problem.” Mr. Delrahim is now the Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, in charge of reviewing the AT&T/Time Warner merger.
Accordingly, CfA is asking the IG to investigate whether the White House and Mr. Murdoch or any of his representatives, improperly influenced any DOJ personnel, including AAG Delrahim, to deny approval of the merger unless AT&T agrees to sell CNN.
Stevens continued, “President Trump is known to be vindictive and Mr. Murdoch has long used his position to benefit favored politicians. Here it appears the two may be using each other to achieve their own ends and silence the voice of an important non-partisan television network. The Inspector General should investigate the actions of the White House and Rupert Murdoch to determine whether DOJ’s independence is being sacrificed to achieve President Trump’s political goals.
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.