March 5, 2018 / 11:32 PM / 12 days ago

Lawsuit seeks White House, Justice Department records on Fox-Disney deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A nonprofit group with a mission to protect democracy filed a lawsuit on Monday seeking any records of communications between the White House and the Justice Department over Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) $52.4 billion deal to buy film, television and international businesses from Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O).

FILE PHOTO: Traders work at the post where Walt Disney Co. stock is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The group, Protect Democracy Project Inc, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington seeking any records of communications about Fox’s Rupert Murdoch or the Fox-Disney transaction.

The lawsuit also seeks “any related antitrust enforcement efforts by the DOJ, to find out whether the president or his administration is improperly interfering with the independence of the DOJ out of favoritism for a political ally.”

The White House, the Justice Department and Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Fox declined to comment.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has attacked AT&T Inc’s (T.N) $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) deal, spoke to Murdoch in December and congratulated him on the deal, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

FILE PHOTO: The Twenty-First Century Fox Studios flag flies over the company building in Los Angeles, California U.S. on November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

She said in December that Trump “thinks that, to use one of the president’s favorite words, that this could be a great thing for jobs.”

Last month, a federal judge denied AT&T’s request to see White House communications that might shed light on whether Trump pressured the Department of Justice to try to block the wireless carrier’s purchase of Time Warner. Trump has frequently attacked Time Warner’s CNN news channel.

    Protect Democracy, which describes itself as a non-partisan group seeking to prevent American society from “descending into a more autocratic form of government,” in November filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department seeking similar communications in the AT&T-Time Warner deal. That lawsuit is pending.

    Protect Democracy said in a statement the lawsuit is "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."

    Last week, Comcast Corp’s (CMCSA.O) proposed buying Sky Plc (SKYB.L) for $31 billion, raising the specter of a potential bidding war between Fox and Disney. Disney had agreed to buy a number of Fox assets, including Fox’s stake in Sky, in December.

    Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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