President Trump reportedly told former economic adviser Gary Cohn to pressure the Justice Department to block the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger – a move which would be grounds for impeachment according to George Conway – the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Based on intel from a “well-informed” (but once again anonymous) source, the New Yorker reports that in the summer of 2017 – several months before the DOJ filed its antitrust lawsuit, Trump allegedly had an Oval Office sit-down with Cohn and then-chief of staff John Kelly in which he wanted to “make sure” the DOJ lawsuit seeking to block the merger was filed.
“I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened!” Trump reportedly told Kelly. “I’ve mentioned it 50 times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!”
According to the New Yorker – Trump’s opposition to the deal was thought to be motivated by his hatred for CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. If true, according to George Conway, “such an attempt to use presidential authority to seek retribution for the exercise of First Amendment rights would unquestionably be grounds for impeachment,” he tweeted.
If proven, such an attempt to use presidential authority to seek retribution for the exercise of First Amendment rights would unquestionably be grounds for impeachment. https://t.co/F1UANzeD2q
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) March 4, 2019
The DOJ maintains that Trump’s dislike for CNN was not a factor in its decision to bring a 2017 lawsuit to block the merger on antitrust grounds, however US District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled in 2018 that the merger could proceed – a decision which was upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Cohn reportedly refused to follow Trump’s order, knowing that it was “highly improper” for the president to intervene.
“Don’t you f—ing dare call the Justice Department,” Cohn reportedly told Kelly. “We are not going to do business that way.” (could Cohn be the anonymous source?)
“The President does not understand the nuances of antitrust law or policy,” said the former, possibly bald official. “But he wanted to bring down the hammer.“