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Department of Justice Appeals Approval of AT&T-Time Warner Merger

$85.4 billion merger approved by federal judge in June

The Department of Justice is appealing a federal judge’s approval of the $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner, according to multiple reports.

The DoJ filed its appeal in a District of Columbia court on Thursday afternoon. CNBC first reported the appeal.

Shares of AT&T dropped about 1.3 percent in after hours trading.

“The Court’s decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned,” David McAtee, AT&T General Counsel, said in a statement to TheWrap. “While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances.  We are ready to defend the Court’s decision at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon approved the merger last month, and urged the DoJ not to ask for a stay. Judge Leon added he didn’t believe the government is likely to have success in an appeal.

The DoJ had argued the deal would curtail innovation and hurt competition if approved.

In his written opinion on the case, Judge Leon disagreed, saying: “The Government has failed to meet its burden to establish that the proposed transaction is likely to lessen competition substantially.”

The merger had been held up in regulatory limbo since October 2016, when AT&T and Time Warner first agreed to join forces. The deal was skewered by President Trump as he wrapped up his campaign in 2016.

“As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” Trump said soon after the merger was initially announced.

President Trump’s criticism of the merger called into question whether AT&T would have to accept an amended deal, without Time Warner assets like CNN, to receive approval. But the deal was approved with no conditions by Judge Leon, allowing AT&T to bring CNN and Warner Bros. into the fold.

Trey Williams contributed to this report.