Cicilline, Leading House Dems Renew Call for White House-DOJ Communications on Time Warner Merger

May 15, 2018

WASHINGTON – Following Rudy Giuliani’s comments last week that President Trump inappropriately intervened to stop AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01), the top Democrat on the House Antitrust Subcommittee, sent a letter today requesting any and all communications between the White House and the Department of Justice on the matter.

Cicilline sent his letter along with House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (NY-), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (MD), and House Government Operations Subcommittee Ranking Member Gerald E. Connolly (VA)

“As we have repeatedly noted, political interference in law enforcement matters—including antitrust enforcement—is unacceptable and without modern precedent,” the Members wrote. “Despite our repeated requests for materials related to the Trump Administration’s many conflicting claims on the matter, the Department has not provided Congress with any relevant information.”

The full text of the letter sent to Attorney General Sessions is embedded below. A PDF copy can be downloaded by clicking here.

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May 14, 2018

The Honorable Jeff Sessions

Attorney General

Department of Justice

200 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

In light of deeply concerning statements regarding President Donald Trump’s potential interference with the Justice Department’s merger review process, we write to renew our February 8, 2018 request for documents relating to AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner.

Last week, AT&T confirmed it paid $600,000 to a shell company owned by President Trump’s personal attorney Michel Cohen.  The shell company reportedly was used “to pay hush money to a pornographic firm actress” and to accept payments from firms tied to known Russian oligarchs.  In its memo entitled “facts around AT&T & Michael Cohen,” AT&T admitted to hiring Cohen to provide insight on the President’s approach to policy issues including “antitrust enforcement, specifically our Time Warner deal,” which was under review by the Department’s Antitrust Division at the time.  Following this report, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated on Friday that the Department’s opposition to the transaction “further proves that the president is not going to be influenced by special interests,” and stated that “[t]his is the definition of draining the swamp that the president talked about in the campaign.”

The same evening, Rudy Giuliani, a legal adviser to President Trump, similarly stated President Trump “did drain the swamp . . . The president denied the merger.  They didn’t get the result they wanted.”  On Sunday, Mr. Giuliani contradicted his earlier statement that the President was involved in the merger decision, noting that the President “did not interfere with the Justice Department going ahead with the case.”  Alarmingly, Mr. Giuliani also stated the President “had every right and power” to interfere with the proposed transaction, adding that it was something that “other presidents have done in anti-trust cases.”  Mr. Giuliani did not provide evidence to support his claims.

As we have repeatedly noted, political interference in law enforcement matters—including antitrust enforcement—is unacceptable and without modern precedent.  Despite our repeated requests for materials related to the Trump Administration’s many conflicting claims on this matter, the Department has not provided Congress with any relevant information.  Moreover, when testifying before the House Judiciary Committee November 14, 2017, you were asked about this very issue.  You responded, “I’m not able to comment on the conversations or communications the Department of Justice top people have with top people at the White House.”  The appearance of the White House interjecting politics into the Department’s law enforcement matters greatly diminishes the public’s trust in the Department’s independence and credibility.

In light of these reports, and for the reasons set forth above, we renew our request for the following documents by May 31, 2018:

(1)          all documents and communications, including email, referring or relating to the decision to sue AT&T, DirectTV Group Holdings LLC, and Time Warner Inc.;

(2)          all documents and communications, including email, referring or relating to the Justice Department’s negotiations with AT&T, DirectTV Group Holdings LLC, and Time Warner Inc.; and

(3)          all documents and communications, including email, identifying any contact between any employee of the White House or any official or unofficial adviser to the President with any Department of Justice employee regarding CNN or the AT&T/Time-Warner merger.   

Sincerely,