Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images

AT&T is looking to discredit the Department of Justice's lawsuit to block its proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner by proving that the government's decision is politically motivated. A U.S. district court judge will decide today if they have a case.

Why it matters: If the judge rules in AT&T's favor, it will mean that President Trump's personal and public vendetta against CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, is working against him.

Where it stands: The judge is currently weighing whether the government is being transparent enough about any communications between the White House and DOJ. The key is whether the White House is attempting to influence the DOJ's decision, which would strengthen AT&T's position in court.

On Friday, AT&T's lawyers argued in court that the government didn't start demanding divestitures of its properties until after Trump was elected.

  • The DOJ is supposed to review mergers independently of the White House so it can assess whether big deals will be good for the public.
  • Sources familiar with the thinking of antitrust lawyers at the DOJ say the decision to block the merger was never political to begin with. Regulators don't think the deal as proposed is good for consumers.
  • But Trump's comments could make it seem political, which would give AT&T ammunition to call out the DOJ for something it likely isn't doing.

Trump's feelings about the AT&T/Time Warner deal are different from his feelings about another pending deal being reviewed by the DOJ between 21st Century Fox and Disney. Although the president has not outwardly addressed either merger, some of his comments and actions allude to his different feelings about the two deals.

  • In a statement the day after AT&T and Time Warner announced the merger, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign said Trump would "break up the new media conglomerate oligopolies" if elected president.
  • The White House wouldn't say whether Trump explicitly supports the Disney-Fox deal, but White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did say he thinks it would be "a great thing for jobs." Analysts say the deal will likely cut jobs.

While the deals are different in nature, Trump's public attacks against CNN and support for Fox News could make it seem as though his support corroborates the actions of the DOJ.

The irony is that if Trump never meddled with any of the the cases being reviewed, the DOJ's decisions likely would support the outcomes he wants. But now his actions are being used against the DOJ, which is otherwise trying to evaluate these mergers for completely different reasons.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly media newsletter, Axios Media Trends. 

Go deeper

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).

Cuomo: "I am not going to resign"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized Wednesday for acting in a way that made women feel "uncomfortable," but insisted that he has "never touched anyone inappropriately" and said he will not resign.

Driving the news: Cuomo reiterated in his first public appearance since sexual harassment allegations surfaced that he will fully cooperate with a team of independent investigators appointed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, but suggested that demands for his resignation from were simply "politics."

Facebook to lift political ad ban imposed after November election

Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook will finally allow advertisers to resume running political and social issue ads in the U.S. on Thursday, according to a company update.

The big picture: Facebook and rival Google instituted political ad bans to slow the spread of misinformation and curb confusion around the presidential election and its aftermath.