If AT&T and DOJ cannot agree to conditions, the government can sue to block the deal.
AT&T's chief executive, Randall Stephenson, said this week he has no intention of selling CNN or making any other major divestments. His FCC appointees, for example, have changed a rule that will allow deeply conservative Sinclair Broadcasting - the new owner of WNEP-TV - to reach up to 72 percent of US households. "It's illogical. It's why we did the deal", he said.
The DOJ's hardline approach to AT&T - belying the business-friendly image of the Trump administration - has spurred questions about Trump's personal interest in the deal, given his feelings about CNN's coverage of his presidency. The White House has also said that Trump has not spoken to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the matter, nor were any White House officials authorized to speak to DOJ on it. "I'm not sure how selling CNN addresses any antitrust concerns so I would expect AT&T to challenge that requirement", Allyn Arden, an analyst at S&P Global Ratings told Wired. But many, including AT&T executives, expected the acquisition to be finalized by the end of the year, and the DOJ's pushback has all but ensured that won't be the case. As a candidate, Trump vowed to block the deal shortly after it was announced, but has not addressed the issue publicly as president.
News of Kushner's remarks come amid AT&T's plans for a $84.5 billion merger with Time Warner.More news: S.Korea, US Kick off Joint Naval Exercise Involving 3 US Carriers
Several Democratic senators warned the deal would lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. "It's time to settle, or it's time to go to court", he said.
The US President's senior adviser Jared Kushner has reportedly filed multiple complaints to CNN regarding the broadcaster's coverage of the US election in 2016. "It's hard to imagine an antitrust argument that will be compelling" from the government, he said.
Antitrust experts were hard-pressed to think of examples of blocked "vertical" deals, in which the acquiring company isn't a direct competitor of the company being purchased.
In an emailed statement, the Justice Department said that it "is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts". "Beyond that, the Department does not comment on any pending investigation".