Top Democrats Request Subpoena for Documents Withheld by Sessions on Communications with White House About AT&T-Time Warner Merger

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Washington, March 1, 2018 | comments
Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, sent a letter asking Chairman Gowdy to issue a subpoena to compel the Department of Justice to produce documents it is withholding from Congress regarding reports of interference by the White House in the decision to file a lawsuit to block the merger between AT&T and Time Warner.

“Our concern relates not only to President Trump’s well-known animus against CNN—Time Warner’s news organization—but also to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ refusal to answer questions from Congress regarding his communications with the White House about this matter,” the Ranking Members wrote. “Although we take no position on the legality of this transaction or the merits of the lawsuit itself, we believe our Committee has a Constitutional obligation to investigate allegations of inappropriate political interference with Justice Department decision-making.”

On February 8, 2018, Cummings and Connolly sent a letter requesting that the Justice Department produce documents by February 22, 2018, relating to its decision to sue AT&T, DirectTV Group Holdings LLC, and Time Warner Inc.; its negotiations with these companies; and any contact between the President’s advisers and Department employees regarding the merger.

“To date, we have received no response to our request, we have received none of the documents we requested, and we have received no indication of when the Department will provide the requested information,” the Ranking Members wrote.

Cummings and Connolly made their request based in part on President Trump’s statement on October 22, 2016, that he would never allow the merger to go through, stating: “AT&T is buying Time Warner, and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration.”

In addition, over the course of the past year, there have been numerous reports of meetings directly between President Trump, as well as his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, and various Justice Department officials.

Finally, on November 14, 2017, Attorney General Sessions refused to answer questions from the House Judiciary Committee about whether he discussed the merger with anyone at the White House. He did not assert executive privilege or and other valid privilege, but instead stated only: “I am not able to comment on conversations or communications that Department of Justice top people have with top people at the White House.”

Cummings and Connolly asked that if Gowdy decided not to issue this subpoena himself, he place this matter on the agenda for the Committee’s next regularly scheduled business meeting so all Committee members will have the opportunity to vote on a motion to subpoena these documents.

Click here to read today’s letter.
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