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Makan Delrahim after Tuesday's ruling. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Justice Department has days to decide whether to continue its lengthy fight against AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner — but an appeal may not stop the deal from closing in the meantime.

The bigger picture: DOJ doesn't just have to worry about this deal, but about every future antitrust case where this ruling could constrain its ability to act.

What's next: DOJ is weighing two decisions as it enters the 6-day window before the deal can close:

  1. Should it appeal the ruling against their case?
  2. Should it ask to pause the deal while the longer appellate process moves forward?

This second question is more fraught. If a court stopped the deal from closing, the companies could find the clock has run past the deal's June 21 closing deadline. The deal has a $500 million breakup fee — but Time Warner could negotiate additional compensation if it had to extend the deadline for the deal, notes BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield.

  • Judge Richard J. Leon surprised the courtroom Tuesday when, after announcing his decision, he told the Justice Department it would be "manifestly unjust" for them to ask for a stay, as a hold on the deal before an appeal is known.
  • "The court has spoken," he said.
  • Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department's top antitrust official, was noncommittal about whether he would follow Leon's advice as he left the courthouse after Tuesday's ruling.

The other side: AT&T says it still expects the deal to close ahead of the deadline next week.

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Go deeper

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

49 mins ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

2 hours ago - World

Two years of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Two years ago Wednesday, the first case of a mysterious new respiratory disease was discovered in Wuhan, China. Now, the Omicron variant has deepened concerns about just how much longer the coronavirus pandemic will last.

The big picture: More than 5 million people have died since that first case. Most people on earth have lived through some form of lockdown. 54% of the global population has had at least one vaccination, though the shots have been distributed unevenly.