The Department of Justice filed a brief Monday in its appeal of the June decision allowing AT&T to acquire Time Warner, arguing that the lower court's ruling showed "fundamental errors of economic logic."
However, when the DOJ first filed its appeal in July, the move raised suspicions that the department's aims were political rather than legal.
"That's a question that's been asked from day 1 of this transaction," Randall Stephenson told CNBC during Allen & Co.'s conference in Sun Valley, ID. "The rumors, the suggestions going around Sun Valley right now, it's all very interesting. People were speculating what's really going on."
The political factor in question is President Donald Trump, who has made his disdain for Time Warner's CNN known on many (many) occasions.
@realDonaldTrump: Check out the fact that you can't get a job at ratings challenged @ CNNunless you state that you are totally anti-Trump? Little Jeff Zuker, whose job is in jeopardy, is not having much fun lately. They should clean up and strengthen CNN and get back to honest reporting!
@realDonald While in the Philippines I was forced to watch @ CNN, which I have not done in months, and again realized how bad, and FAKE, it is. Loser!
@realDonaldTrump: I am extremely pleased to see that @ CNNhas finally been exposed as # FakeNewsand garbage journalism. It's about time!
There actually is a legal strategy at play, and one that has nothing to do with Trump's feelings about CNN. Rather, it all comes down to Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general who leads the DOJ's antitrust division, and his skepticism towards the kind of legal remedies Big Tech has come to rely on in vertical mergers.