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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

Twitter labels tweet from RT implying voter fraud in U.S. elections

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Twitter on Thursday labeled a tweet from Russian state media outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) that included a video implying widespread voter fraud is plaguing, and potentially delegitimizing, the U.S. election.

Why it matters: It's the first time Twitter has labeled RT's account with a civic integrity label, or a designation used to highlight efforts to manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes.

1 hour ago - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. Sports: MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
  5. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.