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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

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker