AG Nominee Barr Will Recuse Himself from AT&T-TW Challenge

Attorney General nominee William Barr, a former board member of Time Warner, has agreed to recuse himself from the Justice Department's challenge to the AT&T-Time Warner merger.

Currently the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is considering DOJ's appeal of a district court decision that the merger did not violate antitrust laws.

Barr made that promise to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, in a meeting with the senator Thursday (Jan. 10), according to Klobuchar.

Related: DOJ Slams AT&T Defense

"[I]t is critically important that the Justice Department is able to complete an unbiased review of the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger,” Klobuchar said. “Given Mr. Barr’s ties to Time Warner, this commitment from Mr. Barr to recuse himself from the Department’s review is necessary.”

Barr, former attorney general under George H.W. Bush, provided sworn testimony in the AT&T-TW court battle in which he took issue with DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim's characterization of a meeting they both attended about the deal.

Barr said of the meeting that Delrahim's version was "inaccurate and incomplete," and that his discomfort at that meeting stemmed from Barr's concerns that "Mr. Delrahim's position about the alleged harms from the merger and his inexplicable...rejection of remedies short of extreme divestitures were the product not of a well-versed substantive analysis, but rather political or other motivation."

Delrahim has argued that divestitures are better than conditions because he says the latter are just trying to make an otherwise illegal merger palatable by imposing restrictions that are hard to police.

Barr has gotten shout-outs from both sides of the aisle and is expected to be confirmed to succeed Jeff Sessions.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.