Congressional Democrats are vowing to “get to the bottom” of the item included in a blockbuster investigative report Monday revealing that Individual 1 pressured White House staff to intervene with the Justice Department to retaliate against CNN. According to a “well-placed source,” reporter Jane Mayer revealed Monday, Trump had ordered then-chief of staff John Kelly and legal adviser Gary Cohn to, in turn, order the Justice Department to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, CNN’s parent company, to spite CNN.
Cohn refused to do so, Mayer reported, but Democrats are going to follow up, in the words of Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, to “get to the bottom of it.” Van Hollen will be “writing to the DOJ to get to the bottom of this and make sure it never happens again,” he tweeted. Van Hollen’s sternly worded letter can be more or less ignored. The House Intelligence Committee cannot.
The chair of that committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, was also on Twitter. “I’ve long feared Trump would use the instruments of state power to carry out his vendetta against the press he has attacked as the ‘enemy of the people.’ Congress must find out whether Trump did just that by seeking to interfere in a merger or raising postal rates on Amazon.” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN that, if the report bears out, it’s a threat to the “free press,” and while he wouldn’t get into whether it was an “impeachable act,” he said it’s “certainly an abuse of power.”
Trump’s opposition to the merger has been ongoing since the 2016 campaign and was included by AT&T in its appeal on the merger. Trump’s campaign issued a press release saying “AT&T … is now trying to buy Time Warner and thus the wildly anti-Trump CNN. Donald Trump would never approve such a deal.”
To be clear, the proposed merger did garner opposition from all corners and for valid anti-trust reasons. (It was approved last month by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit anyway.) At issue here is not the merger; it’s whether Trump tried to intervene in the merger in order to harm CNN. That’s a direct attack on the First Amendment, and on the free press.
An earlier version of this story said it was unclear whether Justice was going to appeal the D.C. Circuit’s decision. They have announced they will not.