Photo: Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

The court battle over AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner got off to a contentious start Monday as lawyers fought over what evidence they could bring into court.

Why it matters: Key themes are already emerging after the first day of AT&T's trial fight against DoJ. For starters, Judge Richard Leon wants to hear from AT&T's competitors, and the government wants to show the hypocrisy of the telecom giant's arguments.

What they’re saying: Justice Department attorney Eric Welsh argued against an attempt by AT&T to keep out of the trial earlier statements from subsidiary DirecTV opposing the Comcast-NBCU merger going through without conditions, arguing they were related to a different case.

  • This is key to the DoJ's case: It wants to show AT&T has opposed similarly structured deals that saw a telecom company buying a media firm.
  • Judge Richard J. Leon indicated he might be willing to treat it only as a statement from DirecTV, not AT&T. If AT&T is successful at getting DirecTV removed as a defendant in the case, it would be a blow to the government.
  • Welsh pushed back that the “same people” involved in earlier deals would be making decisions about the industry going forward. He said some of the other documents DoJ was trying to include had "many, many, many bad statements."

Leon expressed interest in another main thread of the case: whether a telecom provider like AT&T would be competing with Silicon Valley powerhouses like Google or Facebook. He indicated he wants to hear more from a Google employee who was deposed by the DoJ about the importance of Time Warner content to its YouTube TV streaming service.

The judge also made it clear he was worried about witnesses from AT&T's competitors being allowed to testify in secret and AT&T keeping certain documents confidential. He said weighing a "case of this magnitude" in closed court isn't consistent with the premise of a trial.

  • Some of AT&T's competitors sent lawyers to Monday’s hearing. One attempted to address Leon at the end of the day and was sharply rebuked. “Sir, when I talk, you stop,” Leon told the man, who said he represented a Sony subsidiary.

What’s next: There will be more evidentiary arguments on Tuesday. Opening arguments are scheduled for Wednesday and, according to AT&T lawyer Daniel Petrocelli, will be attended by the chief executives of both AT&T and Time Warner.

This story has been clarified to more precisely reflect DirecTV's position on the Comcast-NBCU merger.

Go deeper

24 mins ago - Podcasts

The fight over fracking

Fracking has become a flashpoint in the election's final week, particularly in Pennsylvania where both President Trump and Joe Biden made stops on Monday. But much of the political rhetoric has ignored that the industry has gone from boom to bust, beset by layoffs, bankruptcies and fire-sale mergers.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the state of fracking, and what it means for the future of American energy, with Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group.

Democrats sound alarm on mail-in votes

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Democrats are calling a last-minute audible on mail-in voting after last night's Supreme Court ruling on Wisconsin.

Driving the news: Wisconsin Democrats and the Democratic secretary of state of Michigan are urging voters to return absentee ballots to election clerks’ offices or drop boxes. They are warning that the USPS may not be able to deliver ballots by the Election Day deadline.

Nxivm cult leader Keith Raniere sentenced to life in prison

Carts full of court documents related to the U.S. v. Keith Raniere case arrive at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in May 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Nxivm cult leader Keith Raniere, 60, was sentenced to 120 years in prison on Tuesday in federal court for sex trafficking among other crimes, the New York Times reports.

Catch up quick: Raniere was convicted last summer with sex trafficking, conspiracy, sexual exploitation of a child, racketeering, forced labor and possession of child pornography. His so-called self-improvement workshops, which disguised rampant sexual abuse, were popular among Hollywood and business circles.