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AT&T’s Lawyer Labels the Justice Department’s Effort to Stop the Time Warner Merger as ‘Foolish’

November 21, 2017, 3:40 PM UTC

The U.S. Department of Justice’s move to block AT&T’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner was “foolish” because the deal posed no threat to consumers, the wireless carrier’s trial lawyer Dan Petrocelli told CNBC on Tuesday.

The Justice Department on Monday sued AT&T arguing that the U.S. No. 2 wireless carrier would use Time Warner’s content to force rival pay-TV companies to pay “hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for Time Warner’s networks.”

AT&T has vowed to defend the deal.

“We want to go to court as soon as possible,” Petrocelli told CNBC, saying the burden of proof was on the government.

Related: Here’s Why the Law Is Most Likely on AT&T’s Side in Its Battle to Buy Time Warner

The case was assigned on Tuesday to Judge Christopher Cooper in federal court in Washington. Cooper was nominated by former President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 2014, according to his biography on the court website. He is a veteran of the Justice Department who has worked for at least two major law firms.

The case will be closely watched because U.S. President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of Time Warner’s CNN, and opposed AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner (TWX) on the campaign trail last year, saying it would concentrate too much power in AT&T’s (T) hands.

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In antitrust circles, the court fight will be closely watched since the Justice Department has not successfully litigated to stop a vertical deal—where the merging companies are not direct competitors—since the 1970s, when it prevented Ford Motor (F) from buying assets from spark-plug maker Autolite.