Walter Olson of Cato Institute asks a provocative question, is Donald Trump preparing to use the Fake News CNN narrative to push for regulations against the press? Signs point to yes.
A year ago in this space I discussed one of the more disturbing things then-candidate Donald Trump was saying on the campaign trail, his threats against the business interests of Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, whose paper has been consistently critical of Trump. Trump mentioned tax and antitrust as issues on which Amazon, the company founded by Bezos, might find its status under review. I quoted Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins: “Mr. Trump knows U.S. political culture well enough to know that gleefully, uninhibitedly threatening to use government’s law-enforcement powers to attack news reporters and political opponents just isn’t done. Maybe he thinks he can get away with it.”
Mr. Trump is now fighting a very public grudge match against cable network CNN, which as it happens is one of the enterprises affected by the pending AT&T-Time Warner merger. (Time Warner is CNN’s parent company.) During the campaign, Trump criticized the merger, but in March he nominated to head the Department of Justice’s antitrust division Makan Delrahim, a veteran antitrust lawyer who seemed to take a more benign view. “The sheer size of it, and the fact that it’s media, I think will get a lot of attention,” Delrahim had said in an interview on Canadian TV in October, before the election. “However, I don’t see this as a major antitrust problem.”
On Wednesday the New York Times reported that some close to the President, at least, were looking at options:
White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. Mr. Trump’s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president’s animus toward CNN remains a wild card.
And then yesterday Alex Pfeiffer of the Daily Caller reported:
The White House does not support the pending merger between CNN’s parent company Time Warner and AT&T if Jeff Zucker remains president of CNN, a source familiar with President Trump’s thinking told The Daily Caller.
Trump’s grudge matches have the weight of the White House behind them.