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Protect Democracy Files FOIA lawsuit in Fox-Disney deal

Today, Protect Democracy filed a FOIA suit for documents that will reveal any White House role in the DOJ’s handling of the Fox-Disney deal. Media reports indicated that President Trump received advance notice of the transaction and that he specifically asked that Fox News not be included in the deal. This investigation and lawsuit are part of our larger mission to counter the president’s attempt to undermine two key pillars of our democratic system – fair and independent law enforcement, and freedom of the press, most critically, freedom to dissent against the government.  

Read our complaint here and watch this space for tools we all can use to fight back against the politicization of our government and the erosion of our First Amendment rights.          

Previously, Protect Democracy filed a FOIA suit for documents that would reveal whether the White House inappropriately interfered in the AT&T merger because of its animus toward CNN. The disparate treatment of CNN and Fox News has prompted antitrust expert to wonder whether the president is following through on his threats to use the Department of Justice to reward his media allies and punish his self-proclaimed enemies.

Political interference with the work of our federal agencies has been a distinct feature of the Trump administration. From the president’s insistence that he has an “absolute right to do what I want with the Department of Justice,” the firing of FBI Director James Comey for refusing to halt the investigation into the Trump campaign’s role in the Russian attack on the 2016 election, demands that the Attorney General investigate his political opponents, and demands that the FBI Director fire career law enforcement officers for their private political views, the administration has repeatedly sought to use the machinery of government as a tool for punishing its political opponents and rewarding its friends.  Just this week, the President tweeted an attack on the Attorney General and the DOJ’s Inspector General, and once again demanded a criminal investigation of career law enforcement officers for their work on the Russia investigation. This is what autocrats do and it is a direct threat to our democracy.

At a recent National Summit for Democracy, convened by Stand Up Ideas and Protect Democracy, Republicans and Democrats came together to identify and find ways to counter threats to the health of our democracy. The President’s attacks on independent institutions, and especially the Department of Justice, were a key focus of the group’s attention. In the coming days, Protect Democracy will be announcing an agenda for preventing the politicization of our institutions.  

Among the president’s most prominent attacks on our institutions has been his sustained effort to discredit cable television network CNN and chill its protected speech. From the start of his campaign and throughout his presidency, the president ridiculed CNN, calling it “fake news” and “garbage,” and has threatened to abuse his power over the Department of Justice to retaliate against CNN for coverage he dislikes. On November 20, 2017, the DOJ filed an antitrust lawsuit to block a merger between CNN’s parent company and AT&T following months of media reporting that the administration was using the merger as a means of exerting leverage over CNN.  Then, in December, President Trump praised a proposed merger between 21st Century Fox, the parent of the president’s self-described favorite news network, and Disney. Notably the Fox-Disney merger is a so-called “horizontal” merger of direct competitors that has typically drawn scrutiny from regulators.