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Trump's Alleged Meddling With CNN Could Be an Impeachable Offense
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49829"><span class="small">Eric Lutz, Vanity Fair</span></a>   
Tuesday, 05 March 2019 13:49

Lutz writes: "Presidents don't typically get involved in anti-trust matters before the Justice Department. But according to a new report, that's precisely what Donald Trump did, in an apparent effort to hurt CNN and boost his Fox News buddies."

John Kelly. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
John Kelly. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Trump's Alleged Meddling With CNN Could Be an Impeachable Offense

By Eric Lutz, Vanity Fair

05 March 19

The president reportedly demanded the Justice Department file an antitrust lawsuit to hurt CNN.

residents don’t typically get involved in anti-trust matters before the Justice Department. But according to a new report, that’s precisely what Donald Trump did, in an apparent effort to hurt CNN and boost his Fox News buddies. Per The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, Trump in 2017 directed then-chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and then-chief of staff John Kelly to “pressure” the Justice Department to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, the entertainment conglomerate that owned CNN. “I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened!” Trump told Kelly in a meeting at the time with Cohn, according to Mayer. “I’ve mentioned it 50 times. And nothing’s happened. . . . I want that deal blocked.”

Mayer’s reporting would appear to confirm suspicions inside CNN and AT&T at the time. In late November, the D.O.J. sued to block the $85 billion merger, which executives at both companies saw as an essential step toward competing with Netflix and other ascendant streaming platforms. As my colleague Joe Pompeo wrote, sources at both companies believed the lawsuit was not driven by anti-trust concerns, but by politics. CNN remains a great source of frustration for the president, who frequently calls the cable network “fake news.” The speculation was that Trump was using his influence over the D.O.J. to force AT&T to divest itself of CNN. But AT&T C.E.O. Randall Stephenson was insistent that CNN be part of the deal, and the two sides went to court.

Cohn apparently agreed that Trump’s interest in the merger was inappropriate. “Don’t you fucking dare call the Justice Department,” Cohn reportedly told Kelly after the meeting at which Trump demanded a lawsuit. “We are not going to do business that way.” (The Trump administration insists that there was nothing political about the case, which it lost, appealed, and then lost again.)

Mayer documents the lengths to which the president has gone to intervene in the ratings war between CNN and Fox News, whose C.E.O., billionaire Rupert Murdoch, unsuccessfully attempted to acquire Time Warner in 2014. She also describes various instances in which Fox News actively sought to boost Trump. In one instance, the late Roger Ailes allegedly tipped Trump to questions he’d be asked at a Republican debate. Another time, the conservative-friendly cable network reportedly spiked a Fox journalist’s early coverage of candidate Trump’s alleged affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels. (Trump, who paid tens of thousands of dollars to keep Daniels quiet, claims there was no sexual relationship.) The reporter, Diana Falzone, had “obtained proof” about the affair and confirmed it with multiple sources, but her editors didn’t want to run it. Former Fox executive Ken LaCorte reportedly told Falzone, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” (LaCorte denies this account.)

The symbiotic relationship between Trump and Fox News, while unseemly, is well-known and largely public. Trump regularly calls into Fox News programs, offers programming advice, maintains close personal relationships with Fox hosts, and has stocked his administration with Fox News alumni. His alleged interference in the AT&T-Time Warner merger, however, may constitute an abuse of power. “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,” tweeted Trump critic George Conway, a conservative attorney who is married to Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. Impeachment is surely a ways off. At the very least, the president’s interest in the merger is another tantalizing investigatory target for Democrats in the House. They’re already investigating just about everything else.

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+18 # DongiC 2019-03-05 19:02
Fox News is the official newspaper of the Trump Reich. It doesn't give a hoot for the truth, only the election of Sir Donald. What's a newspaper like Fox doing in a republic?
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-03-05 19:50
"Presidents don’t typically get involved in anti-trust matters before the Justice Department."

This is not really true. Presidents are heavily lobbied by people who want them to weigh in on all manner of issues in front of every department in the executive branch. Presidents, department secretaries, and other top officials are most often heavily involved in every decision of their agencies.

Take the case of Bill Clinton's "tarmac" meeting with Loretta Lynch. Obama was involved with this. He was fully informed. Lynch talked with Comey who was running the investigation and everyone seems to have agreed to go easy. We know this because of the text messages between Strzok and Page. Strzok helped edit the exoneration memo which was written before the investigation was even finished. Lynch and Obama knew the investigation had been "scuttled" on their influence.

Of course, Trump is helping Fox and doing all he can to denigrate CNN. His bias is really ugly. I seriously doubt that it is impeachable, but it will be certain to waste an enormous amount of them in congressional hearings.
+2 # chapdrum 2019-03-05 22:55
"Could be an impeachable offense."
Trump/Barr have removed Jessie Liu from the top of the D.C. Court slot to an associate slot at DOJ, clearing the way for them to select her replacement.