By Diane Bartz and Olivia Oran WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. corporate dealmakers were likely to put major merger plans on hold as they assess whether President-elect Donald Trump will follow through on his populist promises and a threat to block AT&T Inc's purchase of Time Warner Inc , or act more like traditional business-friendly Republicans. Trump's rhetoric and the personal nature of the campaign, which included little discussion of policy, left many uncertain about the new U.S. leader's plans, including how his administration will handle mega-mergers. Wall Street braced for a drop in deals, with Goldman Sachs on Wednesday projecting a 20 to 30 percent downside for earnings of banks that focus on merger and acquisition advice, and Jefferies saying uncertainty about Trump's policy on trade, healthcare, taxes and energy could hamper underwriting activity and M&A globally. "I think a lot of deals will hit the pause button for a bit until we get some clarity on whether President Trump will moderate or be as disruptive as some expect," said a senior Wall Street banker who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak with the media. "It's going to be a tough environment for everything until we see how (Trump) behaves as a leader," the banker added. Trump said in October that AT&T's proposed $85 billion acquisition of the owner of HBO, CNN and the Warner Bros film studio would put too much power in the hands of one company, and that he would block a deal. The gap between Time Warner shares and the implied value of AT&T’s cash and stock bid was over 23 percent in afternoon trading on Wednesday, compared with around 22 percent at Tuesday's close, indicating greater investor scepticism that the companies will be able to complete the transaction. In addition to criticizing AT&T's deal with Time Warner, owner of CNN, Trump has said he would look to break up Comcast's deal to buy NBC Universal, which closed in 2013. He has also threatened antitrust action against Amazon, which owns the Washington Post. All three news organizations have had spats with the president-elect, raising concern in Washington that Trump may use antitrust law to avenge personal slights, said an antitrust expert who asked not to be named to protect business relationships. "That's a fear. That's a legitimate fear," added Seth Bloom of Bloom Strategic Counsel, PLLC, who said presidents tended not to weigh in on specific decisions by antitrust enforcers. "The last president to try to do that was Richard Nixon," said Bloom, referring to a Nixon attorney general, Richard Kleindienst, who was convicted of falsely testifying to Congress that the White House had not meddled with an antitrust probe of International Telephone and Telegraph Corp, according to Kleindienst's obituary in the New York Times. POPULIST OR PRO-BUSINESS REPUBLICAN? Still, some investors believed the man who considers himself business friendly would take a more moderate tone once he assumes office in January. "We think Trump will be pretty good for merger and acquisition activity. As a general proposition, he is pro-business and pro-free market," said Roy Behren, portfolio manager at Westchester Capital Management. Other big pending U.S. deals also did not see sharp changes in prices on Wednesday, and the spreads of three healthcare deals that have encountered antitrust troubles, Aetna -Humana , Anthem -Cigna and Walgreens -Rite Aid , actually narrowed, signalling investors may think they are more likely to close under a Trump administration. The president does not directly decide if a merger is illegal under antitrust law. That is done by the U.S. Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission, which divide up the work of assessing mergers. If one of the agencies decides to stop a deal, it must convince a judge to agree. AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said on Wednesday his company was looking forward to working with Trump and was "optimistic" regulators would approve the deal. Time Warner's shares were last down 1 percent to $86.71, after trading as low as $85.60, while AT&T shares were up just under 1 percent at $37.24. The Dow and S&P 500 were both over 1 percent higher in late afternoon trading. MEDIA CONSOLIDATION IN FOCUS The fate of the AT&T deal as well as several other large mergers, including the proposed combinations of Dow Chemical and DuPont , and Bayer and Monsanto , will ultimately be decided by Trump's nominees to lead antitrust enforcement at the Justice Department and the FTC. "The deal is now more likely than not to be blocked. After all, it is rare for a presidential candidate to comment on such things during a campaign, but when that happens, the team he assembles generally take such statements as commands," New Street analyst Jonathan Chaplin said of the AT&T-Time Warner deal. Chaplin said Trump’s concerns appeared to be focussed on media consolidation rather than on other sectors, and a failure of the AT&T deal would likely discourage other distribution companies from pursuing takeovers of a media company. "We also believe that Trump may look at antitrust options for addressing consolidation in the tech community. Tech was overwhelming in its support of Clinton, something we suspect Trump knows and will remember," Chaplin wrote in a note, referring to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Telecom companies, such as AT&T and Verizon, are seeing their core businesses shrink. That has increased the appetite of telecom companies to buy media firms as they try to get hold of valuable content and diversify their revenue streams. AT&T’s plan to buy Time Warner was expected to spark a new round of industry consolidation and give rise to deals that combine digital distribution and content. Trump's protectionist stance also raises the risk that some foreign corporations, including from China, may face higher hurdles in trying to take over American companies, dealmakers said. "If you were thinking about doing a cross-border deal six months ago you weren't considering things like potential trade barriers, protectionism and tariffs. These are things you have to at least develop a view on and factor into the risk assessment of doing an overseas deal now," said Johs Worsoe, MUFG’s head of investment banking & markets in the Americas. (Reporting by Malathi Nayak, Diane Bartz and David Shepardson in Washington, Michael Erman, Olivia Oran, Lauren Hirsch and Carl O'Donnell in New York, Aishwarya Venugopal and Swetha Gopinath in Bengaluru; Writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by Soyoung Kim, Meredith Mazzilli and Peter Cooney)
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- Associated Press
A federal judge on Sunday blocked the release of a Tennessee man who authorities say carried flexible plastic handcuffs during the riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell for the District of Columbia set aside an order by a judge in Tennessee concerning the release of Eric Munchel of Nashville. After testimony at a detention hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Frensley for the Middle District of Tennessee determined Friday that Munchel wasn’t a flight risk and didn’t pose harm to the public.
- The Telegraph
Israel will ban passenger flights in and out of the country from Monday for a week as it seeks to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants. "Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign," said Benjamin Netanuahu, the Israeli prime minister. It came as a study in Israel reported a 60 per cent drop in over-60s being hospitalised with coronavirus three weeks after being vaccinated, in the latest sign that the jabs are effective. According to Maccabi, an Israeli healthcare provider, there was a significant decrease in hospitalisations from day 23 onwards, which was two days after patients received their second jab. Also on Sunday, Israel expanded its rapid vaccination drive to include 16-18 year-olds in an effort to get them back in schools to take their winter examinations. The winter matriculation certificate is a significant part of university and military admissions. At least one dose has been administered to around a quarter of Israel’s 9 million-strong population. The vaccine is generally available to over 40s or, with parental permission, those aged between 16 and 18. Israel struck a deal with Pfizer at the beginning of January that allowed them to expedite delivery of the vaccine, in return for sharing extensive data on their vaccination campaign with the rest of the world. Yuli Edelstein, the Israeli health minister, told The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that the data from their vaccination programme suggests a first dose offered around 30 per cent protection from coronavirus.
California Governor Gavin Newsom's office has decided to lift the orders as ICU availability in the regions that remained under the stay-at-home order, including the Bay area and Southern California are projected to rise above the 15% threshold that triggered the lockdown measures, according https://bit.ly/3sSPOfp to San Francisco Chronicle. California has reported over 3.1 million cases and 36,745 deaths so far, a Reuters tally showed. Strict stay-at-home orders were renewed for much of California in December to avert a crisis in hospitals.
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Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials indicating it is safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unsubstantiated theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a U.S. military lab, giving it more credence in China. As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China's vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm.
- The Telegraph
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment. Underlining Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican grassroots, the Arizona party also voted to censure John McCain’s widow, Cindy, former senator Jeff Flake and governor Doug Ducey, who refused to back the former president’s claims of election fraud. Mr Trump’s intervention came amid reports that he is considering setting up a “Patriot Party” which would spearhead primary challenges to his opponents in the 2022 mid-term elections. The former president has already amassed a massive war chest with his Save America political action committee declaring last month that it had raked in $207.5 million in donations.
Tacoma Police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said police were alerted to the street racers and a 100-person crowd blocking area streets, according to the News Tribune. When the patrol car responded, the crowd began pounding on the vehicle's windows, she told local media. “He was afraid they would break his glass,” Haddow told the News Tribune, saying the officer sped away from the scene for his own safety.
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The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said they arrested an unnamed juvenile suspect in connection with the shooting death of multiple people.
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Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community.
- Associated Press
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel will be closing its international airport to nearly all flights, while Israeli police clashed with ultra-Orthodox protesters in several major cities and the government raced to bring a raging coronavirus outbreak under control. The entry of highly contagious variants of the virus, coupled with poor enforcement of safety rules in ultra-Orthodox communities, has contributed to one of the world's highest rates of infections. It also has threatened to undercut Israel's highly successful campaign to vaccinate its population against the virus.
- The Week
Senate Democrats are drawing a line at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) demand that a power-sharing agreement in the 50-50 Senate include a pledge to retain the legislative filibuster. "If we gave him that, then the filibuster would be on everything, every day," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday's Meet the Press. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered McConnell "word for word" the same power-sharing agreement used in the first half of 2001, and McConnell's insistence on adding the filibuster pledge is "a non-starter."But until Schumer and McConnell reach agreement on the Senate's operating rules, Republicans still retain much of the majority they lost last Wednesday."Without an organizing accord, Republicans remain in the majority of most Senate committees," and "veteran Democrats eager to seize the gavels and advance their long dormant agendas can only wait and wonder," The Washington Post explains. "Newly sworn-in Democratic senators cannot get committee assignments until an organizational deal is struck," leaving the old GOP-majority structures in place, and "Democrats can't unilaterally impose an organizing agreement because they would need Republican support to block a filibuster."The filibuster has evolved into a sclerotic de facto requirement for a 60-senator supermajority on all legislation. Frustration with obstruction by the minority led Senate Democrats to end the filibuster for some presidential appointees and lower-court judges in 2013, and McConnell continued eroding the filibuster as majority leader, killing it for Supreme Court nominees and further easing the confirmation of presidential appointees.A handful of Democratic centrists would prefer to keep the filibuster — for now. But there is mounting pressure from inside and outside the chamber. "There is absolutely no reason to give Sen. McConnell months and months to prove what we absolutely know — that he is going to continue his gridlock and dysfunction from the minority," said Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the anti-filibuster liberal coalition Fix Our Senate.More stories from theweek.com Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Trump must be prosecuted 5 scathingly funny cartoons about Biden's COVID-19 push
- The Telegraph
An Icelandic man who got the world's first double shoulder and arm transplant is recovering well after the operation, two decades after the accident that cost him both limbs, doctors said Friday. They said it was still uncertain how much mobility Felix Gretarsson, 48, will eventually recover following the operation earlier this month in the French southeastern city of Lyon. But "giving a little to somebody who was missing so much, that's already a lot" Aram Gazarian, the lead surgeon in the operation, told a news conference. "If he can recover the possibility to actively bend his elbow, that would be a life-changer," he said.
- The Independent
Biden news: Experts find major ‘gaps’ in Trump pardons as White House scrambles to rollout vaccine plan
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Turkey received 6.5 million further doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech on Monday, several local media reports said, allowing a nationwide rollout to continue. The new shipment adds to an initial consignment of three million doses which Turkey received nearly a month ago. It has so far vaccinated 1.257 million people, mostly health workers and elderly people, according to health ministry data.
- Associated Press
Indianapolis police arrested a 17-year-old boy Monday in the killings of five people, including a pregnant woman, who were shot to death inside a home in what the city's mayor called a “devastating act of violence.” The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that the name of the suspect in Sunday's killings was “not being released at this time since the suspect is a juvenile." As officers were investigating, police received information about 4:40 a.m. that led them to a nearby home, where they found multiple adults dead inside from apparent gunshot wounds, Sgt. Shane Foley said Sunday.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022, creating an open Senate seat in a red-leaning swing state.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.Between the lines: Portman was one of the Republican senators who said that former President Trump "bears some responsibility" for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. His decision not to seek re-election will free him from the political constraints of voting to convict Trump in his upcoming impeachment trial, though it's not yet clear whether he will choose to do so.What they're saying: "I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision," Portman said in a statement. * “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground." * "This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
A prominent U.S. Senate Republican warned on Saturday that former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial could lead to the prosecution of former Democratic presidents if Republicans retake the chamber in two years. Trump this month became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice after the Democratic-controlled House, with the support of 10 Republicans, voted to charge him with incitement of insurrection for a fiery Jan. 6 speech to his followers before they launched a deadly assault on the Capitol.
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The European Union called Monday on the United Kingdom to grant the EU’s first-ever ambassador to the country full diplomatic status after the government in London declined to accord him those rights, but gave no clear signal that it would take retaliatory action. In a post-Brexit spat, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is refusing to grant full diplomatic status to Joao Vale de Almeida, the 27-nation EU’s envoy to the U.K, which left the bloc last year. London says the EU is an organization, rather than a country.
- The Telegraph
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced the establishment of its embassy in Tel Aviv as the US national security advisor announced that America hopes to build “on the success of Israel’s normalisation agreements” under the Biden administration. The UAE cabinet decision to approve establishing the embassy comes after they signed the Abraham Accords in September, becoming the first Gulf state to establish a full diplomatic relationship with Israel. No further details about the embassy were given in UAE media. While Israel’s government recognises Jerusalem as its capital, the international community does not, with Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Most countries base their embassies in Tel Aviv. Before the deal, Israel only had peace deals with only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan - where it has fortified embassies. Most Arab countries had previously refrained from recognising Israel, believing that recognition should only be granted if serious concessions are made in the Palestinian peace process. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco later agreed to follow in the UAE’s footsteps and normalise ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.