July 12, 2017 / 6:42 PM / 2 years ago

Blumenthal asks antitrust pick to discuss White House role in AT&T deal

FILE PHOTO: Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) questions Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said on Wednesday that he asked President Donald Trump’s top antitrust pick to meet to discuss any contact he has had with the White House regarding AT&T’s (T.N) plan to merge with Time Warner TWX.N.

Blumenthal told reporters on Capitol Hill that he requested the meeting with Makan Delrahim in the wake of a New York Times report that White House advisers battling television news station CNN mulled using a government review of AT&T’s merger plans as leverage.

Delrahim was nominated to be the assistant attorney general for antitrust at the Justice Department and is awaiting Senate confirmation. The department’s Antitrust Division will decide whether the deal is legal under U.S. law.

“(The White House) is ethically and morally barred from intervening,” said Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat. “The mere threat of it is a very serious potential violation of ethics.”

On Tuesday, Bob Quinn, a spokesman for AT&T, declined to discuss the report. Quinn said that AT&T believes it can complete regulatory reviews and close the deal by the end of the year.

Blumenthal also said that he had written to the CEOs of AT&T and Time Warner about the report.

Blumenthal’s remarks echo those of Senator Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, who said last week in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that “any political interference in antitrust enforcement is unacceptable.”

Trump himself has not commented publicly on the deal since the election but during his campaign he said it was an example of a “power structure” that was rigged against him and “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”

Blumenthal said that Delrahim had not yet responded to the request. The Justice Department declined comment.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Writing by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bernard Orr

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