Justice Department loses appeal to block AT&T-Time Warner merger, won't appeal again

The U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday tossed out the Justice Department’s appeal of the AT&T-Time Warner merger.

A three-judge panel ruled the two companies could maintain its merger, saying the government's argument that an earlier court ruling erred was "unpersuasive."

Even though the Justice Department could have asked the full court of appeals to consider the case or sought an appeal to the Supreme Court, the DOJ will not appeal the ruling, spokesman Jeremy Edwards said Tuesday afternoon.

"We are grateful that the Court of Appeals considered our objections to the District Court opinion," he said in a statement send to USA TODAY. "The Department has no plans to seek further review."

Last year, the DOJ lost its attempt to block the deal when a federal judge in June approved the $85 billion merger. After a six-week trial, Judge Richard Leon ruled the government had not adequately made the case that competition would be hurt by the merger.

Leon discouraged the DOJ from continuing its attempt to divert the deal. "I do not believe that the government has a likelihood of success on the merits of an appeal," he said in his ruling.

But the DOJ appealed the result to the U.S. Court of Appeals in July, after AT&T had already incorporated Time Warner into a new entity within AT&T called WarnerMedia, which includes HBO, the Warner Bros. studios, and Turner networks such as CNN and TBS.

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After the ruling was announced Tuesday, AT&T general counsel David McAtee said in a statement to USA TODAY, "We trust that today's unanimous decision from the D.C. Circuit will end this litigation."

When the DOJ sued in November 2017 to prevent the merger, the agency argued a combined AT&T and Time Warner would give one company too much marketplace power, reduce competition and raise consumer bills.

Looming over the case has been President Donald Trump's disdain for CNN. As a candidate, Trump said the deal would concentrate too much power in the company. And while he has been in office, Trump has regularly labeled CNN as "fake news."

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justice Department loses appeal to block AT&T-Time Warner merger, won't appeal again