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Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals

The judge hearing the Justice Department’s lawsuit against AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner is known for both high-profile rulings and a direct manner in the courtroom.

Why it matters: Judge Richard J. Leon will decide the fate of an $85 billion deal in a case that will have broad ripple effects throughout the media, tech and telecom sectors.

The details: He is the judge who approved, after some skepticism, a settlement between DOJ and Comcast over the cable giant’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. Now Leon is hearing a similarly structured deal — but this time the government and the merging companies couldn't reach a settlement.

He’s not afraid to rule against or chastise the government:

  • In 2013 he called an NSA surveillance program “almost-Orwellian.”
  • A 2008 ruling saw him tell the government to free five people held at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
  • He was critical in 2015 of the State Department’s slow response to a records request related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

What he’s saying: In court so far, Leon has lived up to his reputation as matter-of-fact and sometimes colorful.

  • He quite forcefully warned both AT&T and DOJ not to go to the press to make their case.
  • “Now, where did that fake news come from,” Leon sternly asked at a Thursday hearing after Reuters reported the trial’s start would be delayed two days.
  • At the same hearing he said the attorneys submitted certain objections in type that was too small for him to read. But his staff, he noted with some pleasure, had been able to expand the type and color-code the requests.
  • He allowed an overflow room for the case only when it was clear there was overwhelming interest from the press. It will feature a live audio feed from the courtroom, but no video, and attendees won’t be able to use electronics in either room.

Leon has projected authority from the bench as the trial has gotten closer. As Thursday's hearing came to a close, he reinforced the slog ahead with a message to the attorneys: “Get your rest.”

Go deeper

McCarthy jokes about hitting Pelosi with gavel if he becomes Speaker, in new audio

Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can be heard saying "it would be hard not to hit" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the speaker's gavel if Republicans retake the House in 2022 and he becomes speaker, according to new audio posted to Twitter by a Main Street Nashville reporter.

Driving the news: McCarthy made the comments during a fundraising event in Tennessee, as he was handed an oversized gavel by members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, reports CNN.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

U.S. and U.K. blame Iran for drone strike on oil tanker

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that the United States and United Kingdom, respectively, now believe Iran was likely responsible for last week's drone strike on an oil tanker in the Arabian sea.

Why it matters: The United States and Britain now join Israel in accusing Tehran of being behind the July 29 attack off the coast of Oman. Iran has denied involvement.

9 hours ago - Sports

Suni Lee wins bronze medal in uneven bars

Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

U.S. gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee won her 3rd Olympic medal on Sunday, taking home bronze in the individual uneven bars event.

Driving the news: Also on Sunday, U.S. gymnast MyKayla Skinner won the silver medal in the vault on Sunday after stepping in for Simone Biles, who withdrew from the event to prioritize her mental health and well-being.