The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. recently ruled against the Trump regime and in favor of AT&T's purchase of Time Warner because, in the words of the court, the federal government had not proven that it would be bad for consumers.
When the ruling was released last week I speculated that government lawyers couldn't prove it would be bad for consumers because that's not the real reason it was challenged by the Justice Department. I speculated that Trump had ordered the Jeff Sessions-era Justice Department to oppose the merger for personal reasons.
According to an extensive report on the relationship between the White House and the media from the New Yorker, that's exactly what happened.
The day after the Justice Department filed suit to stop it, [Trump] declared the proposed merger “not good for the country.” Trump also claimed that he was “not going to get involved,” and the Justice Department has repeatedly assured the public that he hasn’t done so.
However, in the late summer of 2017, a few months before the Justice Department filed suit, Trump ordered Gary Cohn, then the director of the National Economic Council, to pressure the Justice Department to intervene. According to a well-informed source, Trump called Cohn into the Oval Office along with John Kelly, who had just become the chief of staff, and said in exasperation to Kelly, “I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened! I’ve mentioned it fifty times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!”
The New Yorker reports that Gary Cohn did not follow Trump's order to privately pressure the Justice Department to oppose the merger, but I think it's fair to presume that someone did.
This probably won't be a surprise to anyone who has paid any attention to how Trump operates.