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The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed Makan Delrahim, a corporate lawyer — who has previously represented tech giants like AT&T, Google and Qualcomm — to serve as one of the Trump administration’s top antitrust enforcers.
Now, Delrahim is set to assume the helm of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, which has broad powers to police competition and reviews major tech and telecom mergers — from AT&T’s pending purchase of Time Warner to a potential, rumored tie-up of Sprint and T-Mobile.
Trump initially nominated Delrahim for the post in March, as first reported by Recode. While the president at times has flashed a populist, trust-busting streak, Delrahim represented a more traditional pick — a candidate well-known in antitrust law and a former top aide at the very DOJ division he’s now about to lead. More recently, Delrahim aided Trump’s team in securing Senate confirmation for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
A former congressional staffer, Delrahim came to count on early, broad support among Republicans and Democrats in Congress, who advanced his nomination out of committee nearly unanimously. But he then drew opposition from some of the Democratic Party’s most powerful members, particularly Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who held up his nomination for months.
Warren’s concerns numbered many: As a progressive who has long agonized for stronger U.S. antitrust enforcement, the senator harbored deep doubts about Delrahim because he had previously represented the insurance giant Anthem. The party, generally, has tried to stake out a more aggressive tack on antitrust in recent months.
And Warren, like other Democrats, also questioned Delrahim’s independence in the job, given that Trump repeatedly has taken aim at merging companies, at one point threatening to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal.
For his part, Delrahim said in October that the telecom merger did not appear to pose a “major antitrust problem.” That review, well under way at the DOJ, now falls to him.
Delrahim’s other, older clients included AT&T, which he represented as a lobbyist in 2007 and 2008, federal records show. He also aided Google during the search giant’s purchase of DoubleClick in 2008. And most recently, Delrahim worked the halls of Congress and the federal government on behalf of Qualcomm, federal records show. In his new stint at the DOJ, Delrahim may have to recuse himself in some of those matters.