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Trump’s new antitrust nominee has said he doesn’t see major problems with the AT&T-Time Warner merger

The president nominated Makan Delrahim as his leading antitrust enforcer today.

Drew Angerer / Getty

President Donald Trump has nominated a former corporate lawyer — who previously said that AT&T’s bid for Time Warner doesn’t pose a “major antitrust problem” — as the U.S. Justice Department’s next competition chief.

The White House announced today that it had selected Makan Delrahim, who is already aiding the Trump administration, as its pick to be the assistant attorney general for antitrust, a key government position with the power to approve or deny mergers and investigate companies for potential competition threats.

Delrahim, who must be confirmed by the Senate, is a longtime antitrust expert who previously served in a similar capacity at the Justice Department under former President George W. Bush. In recent months, Delrahim has helped Trump advance his nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, through his own Senate vote.

But Delrahim’s selection stands in contrast with his boss in the Oval Office when it comes to one of the most prominent competition issues currently in the hands of government regulators: The AT&T-Time Warner merger.

Publicly and privately, Trump has blasted the deal, even though the president stressed in January that he hadn’t “seen any of the facts.” Delrahim, however, said in an interview on Canadian television last year that he didn’t see the problem with AT&T’s latest business gambit, given that the wireless giant and Time Warner are not direct competitors.

“The sheer size of it, and the fact that it’s media, I think will get a lot of attention,” he said in October. “However, I don’t see this as a major antitrust problem.”

If he’s confirmed for the job, Delrahim, a former partner at the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, will have to work with the government’s ethics watchdogs to set out a plan for when he has to recuse himself.

He has previously worked with AT&T, as a lobbyist for the company from 2007 to 2008, but he has also opposed the telecom giant, as a lawyer who fought AT&T’s unsuccessful bid to buy T-Mobile on behalf of companies like Dish. Delrahim also previously represented Google when the company purchased DoubleClick in 2008, according to his former law firm bio.

Before joining the White House this year, Delrahim served as an antitrust lobbyist for Comcast*, which purchased NBCUniversal in 2011, and he also worked the halls of Congress and the federal government on behalf of Qualcomm, federal records show. His representation of the chipmaker until the end of 2016 — a stint focused on “issues related to domestic and foreign antitrust enforcement,” according to an ethics report — comes as the FTC this year has sued the company for alleged anticompetitive licensing practices.

* Comcast, via its NBCU unit, is a minority investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.

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