IG: Candidate Trump Queried Pai on AT&T-TW Merger Structure - Broadcasting & Cable
But FCC chairman says they did not talk policy

FCC Inspector General David Hunt's report on allegations of favoritism may have concluded that FCC chair Ajit Pai showed no evidence of "impropriety or unscrupulous behavior" when it came to the FCC's dealings with Sinclair or the Tribune merger, but it did talk of various contacts Pai had with the Trump Administration, including with the President about the AT&T-Time Warner merger.

Pai was asked to recollect a Jan. 17, 2017, Trump Tower meeting with then president-elect Donald Trump to discuss his possible appointment as chairman--Pai was a commissioner. The chairman said that Kushner and PayPal CEO Peter Thiel were in the room and that while Trump did not ask any specific policy questions, he did express an interest in "the legal framework of the AT&T-Time Warner merger."

Candidate Trump signaled he was concerned about a big media company, like CNN parent, getting more powerful, leaving many to conclude it was tied to his dislike of CNN's coverage of his campaign.

Candidate Trump had had signaled his Justice Department would try to block the deal--it did, in court, but the court ruled otherwise and the deal went through. 

The deal did not get vetted by the FCC, however, because it was structured so as not to include any of the license transfers that would have triggered that review. 

Pai was also asked to recollect a May 5 email and phone call from Kushner--Kushner's e-mail to Pai said: "Just tried you--had a quick thing to run by you." 

Pai said he did not recall the conversation.

Pai has had several other interactions with the President--a March 2017 meeting he had already disclosed that included no policy discussions, an Oct. 17 visit to the White House, which was celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and the Feb. 16 signing of the Kari's Law Act. On neither of those did Pai speak to the President beyond "formalities."

As to the July 16 call Pai received from White House counsel Don McGahn--described as a status inquiry on the Sinclair-Tribune deal, which Trump favored--Hunt pointed out that the Pai and McGahn are long-time acquaintances.

Hill Dems said Pai should have disclosed that call, though the chairman's office said he had complied with ex parte rules and said the Dems were simply making "another absurd partisan attack."

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