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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing to prevent AT&T from completing its proposed $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, throwing the telecom giant's bet on becoming a media powerhouse in jeopardy. "Our investigation showed this is an illegal merger that would harm consumers," a DOJ official told reporters.

Why it matters: Antitrust regulators do not usually oppose so-called "vertical" mergers like this one, in which one company is buying another against which it doesn't really complete. But it is unclear if the change is philosophical, or related to President Trump's campaign statements against the deal and his subsequent criticism of Time Warner property CNN.

AT&T already was on record as saying it's ready to litigate, as it believes its future lies not only in distributing content, but also in producing it. The company's general counsel, David McAtee II, quickly said in a statement that the company is "confident" it will win in court. At a press conference after the suit was filed, CEO Randall Stephenson said the lawsuit pushed antitrust law past the "breaking point."

He also said AT&T won't sell CNN to get the deal approved. The DOJ official said earlier in the day that the White House had not communicated, to that person's knowledge, with the agency about the investigation.

Time Warner shares fell over 1% to close at $87.71 per share, compared to the $107.50 per share takeover price (which is to be paid in cash and stock).

The details:

  • AT&T's merger with Time Warner would result in higher prices and fewer options for consumers, the DOJ official said.
  • The DOJ official said that the combined company "would have the incentive and ability to charge more for Time Warner's popular networks" and that it could keep others out of the streaming video market.
  • The DOJ official said the agency remains open to finding an appropriate set of conditions to get the deal approved.
  • No state attorneys general have signed on to support the case. "We will prevail in court," said the DOJ official.

This post has been updated to incorporate the comments at AT&T's press conference.

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Biden confronts mounting humanitarian crisis at the border

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images     

Just over a month into his presidency, President Biden is staring down a mounting crisis at the border that could be just as bad as the ones faced by Barack Obama and Donald Trump, if not worse.

Why it matters: Immigration is an issue that can consume a presidency. It's intensely and poisonously partisan. It's complicated. And the lives and welfare of vulnerable children hang in the balance.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
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The rise of vaccine passports

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Vaccine passports were touted early in the pandemic as an important piece of the plan to get people back to normal life. Now they’re becoming a reality.

Driving the news: CLEAR, the secure digital identity app that you see in airports around the world, and CommonPass, a health app that lets users securely access vaccination records and COVID test results, have joined forces.

"Vaccine tourism" stretches states' supplies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans who are highly motivated to get vaccinated are traveling across state lines after hearing about larger vaccine supplies or loopholes in sign-up systems.

Why it matters: "Vaccine tourism" raises ethical and legal questions, and could worsen the racial socioeconomic and racial inequalities of the pandemic.