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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

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenge to affirmative action at Harvard, UNC

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a pair of cases challenging the consideration of race in the college admissions processes.

Why it matters: The conservative high court's ruling could determine the future of affirmative action in higher education.

Europe's energy reliance on Russia is a crucial shield for Putin

Photo: Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Cracks in the NATO alliance regarding sanctions for Russia should President Vladimir Putin order troops into Ukraine are in large part based on energy supply concerns.

Why it matters: Russia holds tremendous leverage over some European countries because it provides roughly 40% of Europe's natural gas supply. In Germany, this figure is greater than 50%.

Why the Fed might want to jolt the markets

Fed chair Jerome Powell at a hearing earlier this month. Photo: Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images

So far, financial markets are cooperating nicely with the Federal Reserve's efforts to restrain inflation. They're doing the Fed's work for it by creating tighter financial conditions, in a distinctly non-panicky way.

  • But as the central bank's policymakers meet this week, an underlying question they face is whether the adjustment is happening too slowly.