Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

When T-Mobile US and Sprint first announced their $26 billion merger in early 2018, the endgame was to reduce the country's number of major mobile carriers from four to three ⁠— thus letting the new partners better compete with AT&T and Verizon. But that ship appears to have sailed.

The state of play: Multiple reports are saying that the Justice Department is insisting on the maintenance of four majors, despite T-Mobile CEO John Legere's still-available tweet about how DOJ doesn't believe the deal needs any restructuring. Enter Dish, which currently is a satellite TV company without any mobile telecom offering.

  • But it does have a bunch of spectrum, which makes it one of a few viable partners to get this thing over the finish line.
  • The idea is that T-Mobile/Sprint would make divestitures to ensure Dish could become the fabled fourth player — albeit possibly more as a reseller on the existing network, rather than a new network itself.

The big picture: It's an elegant solution, but not without its own challenges.

  • The biggest obstacle may be Dish chairman and former CEO Charlie Ergen, who holds nearly a 37% stake in the company and is known to be a very tough negotiator. What Ergen wants may not ultimately be palatable to T-Mobile, and he appears to have most of the leverage.
  • Plus, it's possible that DOJ won't like the final compromise, assuming there is one.
  • Sprint owner SoftBank recently hired another lobbyist to work on the transaction, per Axios' David McCabe.

The bottom line: When announced, this deal was presented as a much easier regulatory pass than was AT&T-Time Warner, even though it's a very vertical merger. It was wishful thinking.

Go deeper: Sprint's stock rallies again as merger hopes rise

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Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump's Tucker mind-meld

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images and BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

If you want to understand the rhetorical roots of Trump's Independence Day speech at Mount Rushmore, go back and watch Tucker Carlson's monologues for the past six weeks.

Between the lines: Trump — or rather his speechwriter Stephen Miller — framed the president's opposition to the Black Lives Matter protest movement using the same imagery Carlson has been laying out night after night on Fox.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 11,366,145 — Total deaths: 532,644 — Total recoveries — 6,154,138Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 2,874,396 — Total deaths: 129,870 — Total recoveries: 906,763 — Total tested: 35,512,916Map.
  3. States: Photos of America's pandemic July 4 ICU beds in Arizona hot spot near capacity — Houston mayor warns about hospitals
  4. Public health: U.S. coronavirus infections hit record highs for 3 straight days.
  5. Politics: Former Trump official Tom Bossert says face masks “are not enough”
  6. World: Mexican leaders call for tighter border control as infections rise in U.S.
  7. Sports: Sports return stalked by coronavirus
  8. 1 📽 thing: Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback.

Bolton's hidden aftershocks

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The news media has largely moved on, but foreign government officials remain fixated on John Bolton's memoir, "The Room Where It Happened."

Why it matters: Bolton's detailed inside-the-Oval revelations have raised the blood pressure of allies who were already stressed about President Trump's unreliability.