According to a new book "The Divider" by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, high-ranking executives at AT&T were furious with Donald Trump for attempting to strongarm the company into selling CNN to billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch starting back in late 2016.
As reported by Business Insider, the two authors report Trump asked then-AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson to meet with him at Trump Tower shortly after his upset win in the 2016 presidential election.
AT&T was, at the time, working on a merger with Time-Warner and, after Trump complained about CNN head Jeff Zucker, Stephenson left the meeting feeling that the incoming Trump administration would try to block the merger.
The report notes that five months later Murdoch called Stephenson and asked, "“How’s the deal going?” before offering to purchase the network if it would help get a deal done quicker.
The book states that Stephenson reportedly told Murdoch, "Rupert, I’m not interested in selling."
According to the Independent which received an early copy of the book, "...the Australian-born mogul would telephone a second time three months later, on the heels of a White House dinner with Mr Trump, his son-in-law turned adviser Jared Kushner, and the then White House chief of staff John Kelly," adding, "[Authors] Baker and Glasser report that AT&T believed the calls to be 'an implicit quid pro quo' in which Mr Trump would not push the government to block the merger if AT&T would divest its news channel to the owner of a competitor whose network was closely allied with the then president. They add that executives 'viewed it as crude, almost mob-style extortion.'"
The report adds that the AT&T CEO was "totally beyond pissed” that Murdoch and Trump appeared to be teaming up against his pending business deal.
According to the report, Stephenson reportedly, "... felt that this was the most outrageous abuse of power that he’d ever seen.”
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