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Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney Genery in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Hours before a federal judge will announce his verdict in the AT&T vs Justice Department case determining the fate of AT&T's $85 billion merger with Time Warner, the Trump administration's top antitrust enforcer doubled down on the DOJ's interpretation of antitrust laws in blocking the deal.

The big picture: This is the most significant antitrust case in years. Even if DOJ ultimately loses the case, as many analysts expect it will, it has put a stake in the ground on how it views its enforcement powers.

Makan Delrahim, who leads the Justice Department's antitrust division, defended the DOJ's stance on the AT&T-Time Warner deal, which he noted was put together by career antitrust attorneys.

  • The deal "would have unlawfully raised prices for cable TV subscribers and harmed online innovation," he said.

He made the case in a speech Tuesday morning that the long-held "consumer welfare standard" that is at the core of antitrust reviews remains the best way to evaluate threats to competition, and that broadening that standard to include the impact on democracy and free speech carries significant risks.

Key quotes:

  • Some have argued that the DOJ should use is sizable powers to do what's best for democracy, in addition to focusing narrowly on consumer harm. Delrahim said doing so would "carry too great a risk of undermining constitutional values."
  • Prosecutors, he said "carry with them their own perceptions of what is good and bad for democracy."
  • The consumer welfare standard, he said, "protects us from the dangers to liberty from well-meaning enforcers," quoting former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.
  • Political positions should have no role in determining antitrust actions, he said, and added that "there could be real risks to core democratic standards in pursuit of broader societal goals."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 5 mins ago - World

Russia to blame for Litvinenko's killing, European Court says

The grave of Alexander Litvinenko at Highgate Cemetery in London, England. Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Russia "was responsible for the assassination of Aleksandr Litvinenko" in London, England.

  • Litvinenko died in 2006 after being poisoned in the city with Polonium 210, a rare radioactive isotope.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

The great holiday shortage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Brace yourself: It's going to be hard to find everything — not just your favorite holiday foods and hot toys and gifts but also basic staples like coffee and footwear — because of supply chain problems that will likely persist at least through next spring.

Why it matters: Scarce resources will likely lead to more scuffles among shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores, fewer deals for Black Friday and online price wars that could threaten the livelihood of already-suffering retailers.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Trudeau's Liberals set to form minority government after Canada election win

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government was reelected for a third term in Monday's parliamentary elections, but preliminary results show it failed to win a majority.

Why it matters: Trudeau has governed Canada with a minority of legislative support in parliament for the past two years. Last month, he called for an election two years earlier than scheduled in the hope of forming a majority government.