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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, left, listens as Trump speaks at the White House. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson said Monday night that the telecom giant is ready for a war with the Department of Justice over the agency's lawsuit to block his $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. "The government has filed a lawsuit and it stretches the very reach of antitrust law beyond the breaking point," he said.

The bigger picture: The legal battle is going to be closely watched for what it tells other companies and the public about the climate for big mergers.

The details:

  • Stephenson said he didn't know if the president's attitude toward CNN — owned by Time Warner — played into the decision to block the deal. "But nobody should be surprised that the question keeps coming up, because we witnessed such an abrupt change in the application of antitrust law here," he said. (A DOJ official said on Monday that there had not been communication with the White House about the investigation into the deal, to the official's knowledge.)
  • He said that the company wouldn't sell CNN to get the deal approved.
  • The executive also referenced the original content being created by Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Google — asking, essentially, why the government was pursuing this deal while leaving those other companies untouched.

Go deeper: Our summary of DOJ's case

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.

30 mins ago - Technology

Why domestic terrorists are so hard to police online

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Domestic terrorism has proven to be more difficult for Big Tech companies to police online than foreign terrorism.

The big picture: That's largely because the politics are harder. There's more unity around the need to go after foreign extremists than domestic ones — and less danger of overreaching and provoking a backlash.