AT&T sought to call US antitrust chief Makan Delrahim as a witness in a court case regarding a US government block on its bid to acquire Time Warner, in a move experts said shows the operator is confident of a win.

The operator made the move as part of an attempt to prove political interference played a role in the government’s decision over the $85 billion deal, The New York Times (NYT) reported.

Sources told NYT AT&T added Delrahim’s name to its witness list for the trial, which is scheduled to begin on 19 March. The operator is also reportedly seeking access to internal communications between Delrahim’s office and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who heads the Department of Justice (DoJ), as well as correspondence between the White House and DoJ officials.

Experts told NYT the move to call a US antitrust head to the stand is unheard of.

Change of tune
The tactic could well be a ploy to highlight the change of opinion Delrahim experienced in his transition from an independent antitrust expert to Trump administration official.

Prior to his DoJ confirmation, Delrahim stated in October 2016 he didn’t view the AT&T deal as a “major antitrust problem”. But by November 2017, he alleged the deal would “greatly harm” US consumers, an opinion in line with President Trump’s promise on the 2016 campaign trail the deal would not be approved under his administration because it would allow “concentration of power in the hands of too few”.

The DoJ announced in November 2017 it would sue AT&T in order to block the takeover.

A public pre-trial hearing is scheduled to be held on 16 February.