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President Trump embraces Rupert Murdoch. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / Getty

President Trump on Wednesday spoke with 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch about an agreement whereby Fox will sell most of its entertainment assets to The Walt Disney Co. for $52.4 billion.

Why it matters: Trump and Murdoch are old pals, but this conversation could raise accusations of political favoritism when it comes to regulatory approvals. Not only for Disney/Fox, but also for AT&T's attempted takeover of Time Warner.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not explicitly say that Trump supports the Disney-Fox deal, but did say that he believes it "could be a great thing for jobs."

  • Reality check: Disney said in an investor call today that it expects to achieve $2 billion in "cost synergies" by 2021, which often is corporate-speak for layoffs.

If Trump does favor the deal, that would be in contrast to his feelings about AT&T's $85 billion deal for Time Warner, which he opposes.

One big difference between the two is that Time Warner owns a cable news network that Trump believes is too critical (CNN), while 21st Century Fox owns one that he favors (Fox News). There is no evidence that Trump's anitpathy toward CNN caused the Justice Department's objections, but AT&T reportedly plans to investigate the matter. The call to Murdoch could be used to buttress such a theory, particularly if the Justice Department permits Disney/Fox to proceed.

Trump spoke with Murdoch ahead of Disney deal to make sure Murdoch wasn’t selling Fox News, person briefed on the call said— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) December 14, 2017

Another major difference between the two transactions is that Disney/Fox is largely being viewed as a "horizontal" merger, in which a company buys up a rival. It's the sort of thing that has traditionally been of most concern to anti-trust regulators, due to concerns about too much power being concentrated in too few companies — something Trump worries about with AT&T/Time Warner, even though it's viewed as more of a "vertical" merger.

  • White House economic advisor Peter Navarro said during the campaign that Trump would "break up the new media conglomerate oligopolies."

If the Justice Department supports a horizontal merger like Disney/Fox while opposing a vertical one like AT&T/Time Warner, there could again be questions raised about what was said during today's phone call between Trump and Murdoch.

Go deeper

Hill votes will make global waves

President Biden addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images)

This epic week for President Biden on Capitol Hill is even bigger than his domestic agenda.

Why it matters: Biden has anchored his entire strategy for foreign affairs on the notion that "America is back." What that means in practice is that Biden needs to prove democracy works to rally America’s liberal allies against rising authoritarians.

3 hours ago - World

German election: Exit polls show close race to succeed Angela Merkel

SPD leader Olaf Scholz. Photo: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

BERLIN — The first exit poll from Sunday's German elections showed the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) in a dead heat at 25%, leaving the race to succeed Angela Merkel too close to call.

The state of play: A second exit poll showed the SPD narrowly ahead. That's the one televisions displayed at SPD headquarters in Berlin, where the room erupted into cheers. Official results will roll in throughout the evening.

Abbott says he'll hire Border Patrol agents on horseback if they're fired

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday defended the actions of U.S. Border Patrol agents who charged at Haitian migrants on horseback, blaming the Biden administration for not preventing them from crossing the border.

Why it matters: Abbott's remark on "Fox News Sunday" comes amid increased backlash over the incident, with President Biden saying, "I promise... those people will pay,” and the Department of Homeland Security launching an investigation.