U.S. government, AT&T say pre-trial preparation progressing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for the Justice Department and AT&T Inc T.N said on Friday that preparations have been smooth for a trial to decide if the wireless and pay TV giant may buy movie and TV show maker Time Warner Inc TWX.N.

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“Things have been moving as they ought to,” said Justice Department lawyer Craig Conrath in a pre-trial status conference.

The Justice Department sued in November to stop AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. wireless company, from buying Time Warner for $85 billion because of concerns that it could raise prices for rivals and pay-TV subscribers and hamper the development of online video.

Conrath said that the government had held depositions on Thursday and Friday.

Daniel Petrocelli, who represents DirecTV owner AT&T as well as Time Warner, said that the Justice Department planned 41 depositions.

Petrocelli said that the government had put 35 potential witnesses on a preliminary list while AT&T had 22. Neither man identified the witnesses or people being questioned in depositions.

The next status hearing was set for Jan. 19.

Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will oversee a trial that begins on March 19 and run about 15 days. The companies recently extended the termination date for the deal to June 21.

The fate of the deal has been widely followed because U.S. President Donald Trump criticized it on the campaign trail in 2016 and has repeatedly attacked the reporting of Time Warner’s CNN news network.

Trump recently renewed his opposition to the deal. “I think your pricing’s going to go up. I don’t think it’s a good deal for the country,” he said in November.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman