Jeff Sessions Questions Reporting on AT&T–Time Warner Merger

Jeff Sessions speaks on immigration at the Justice Department September 5, 2017 - Getty-H 2017
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The attorney general also said he can't discuss contact between the White House and the Department of Justice.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, testifying Tuesday at a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, pushed back on recent reports suggesting the politicization of the government's review of the AT&T and Time Warner merger. Last week, it was widely reported that the Department of Justice asked AT&T in a Monday meeting to divest Turner as a condition of winning approval, possibly owing to Donald Trump's distaste for CNN.

"First, I would say that I don't accept, and cannot accept, the accuracy of that news report," Sessions told Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia.

When asked specifically whether the Department of Justice has asked AT&T to divest Time Warner, Sessions said, "I don't think...I'm able to accept as accurate news reports that have come out on that."

Speaking about the merger review process more broadly, Sessions said: "Our work is professional."

Later in the hearing, Rep. David Cicilline asked Sessions again about reports of contact between the White House and the Department of Justice about the deal, which he called "disturbing." Sessions declined to comment, saying: "I'm not able to comment on conversations or communications the Department of Justice top people have with top people at the White House."

The merger, which seemed like a done deal as recently as a few weeks ago, now seems to be in question. In addition to the Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission is reviewing the deal.

Speaking at an industry conference last Thursday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson definitively ruled out the possibility of the company selling CNN as part of the deal approval process.