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"That was made by a man who is actually a very respected person, a very, very respected person".

The head of the Justice Department's antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, said in a statement late on Thursday that he has "never been instructed by the White House" on the AT&T deal.

The DOJ should forget about CNN and reject the merger to prevent further consolidation of media power.

Trump's comments have provoked concern that he may improperly influence the US Department of Justice to block the deal. "This way, at least you can get your word out". As president, Trump has often blasted CNN for its coverage of him and his administration, disparaging it and its reporters as "fake news".

Rather than attempting to weaken CNN as a condition of the merger, the DOJ should move against it for the reasons cited by Trump himself while campaigning in Gettysburg in 2016.

"I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN, period".

According to Reuters, Mr Murdoch telephoned AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson twice in the last six months and talked about CNN. Murdoch reportedly has had numerous contacts with Trump.

"We'll see how that - it will probably end up being maybe litigation, maybe not. We'll see how it all plays out".

In an email provided by a DOJ spokeswoman, White House spokesman Raj Shah said that Trump "did not speak with the attorney general about this matter", and that "no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter".

According to the Wall Street Journal, Kushner told Gary Ginsburg, Time Warner's executive vice president of corporate marketing and a former lawyer for the Clinton White House that "CNN should fire percent of its staff because they were so wrong in their analysis of the election and how it would turn out, people familiar with the matter say".

He also seemed to challenge one of AT&T's arguments in favor of the transaction: that it now faces a competition landscape made up of large Silicon Valley companies. "But I do believe you should have as many news outlets as you can".