By Alan Murray and Claire Zillman
February 21, 2018

You have to admire AT&T’s chutzpah. The company argued for court access to Trump White House communications with the Justice Department in order to determine whether the president improperly influenced Justice’s decision to challenge the AT&T takeover of Time Warner. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon denied the request.

But let’s be honest: You don’t need discovery to divine the president’s views of the merger. He’s tweeted them to the world several times. As for his hatred of CNN — well, that’s near daily Trump fare. The ultimate irony is that the president’s bashing of CNN may ultimately make it impossible for AT&T to change the network and give Trump’s nemesis, Jeff Zucker, indefinite job security. If AT&T succeeds, it will be forced to leave Zucker and his all-Trump-all-the-time programming approach in place, just to prove it is not bowing to the president. And if AT&T fails…well, Trump may get some psychic pleasure, but CNN will persevere.

AT&T’s main argument, of course, is that there is no good reason to block the merger, because the two companies don’t compete directly, and because the Justice Department doesn’t have much of a recent record of challenging such “vertical” mergers. But Judge Leon took a different view. Challenging a vertical merger “may, indeed, be a rare breed of horse,” he wrote, “but it is not exactly a unicorn!”

Strike one for AT&T. More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

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