Seeking to settle old scores and courting charges of violating freedom of the press, president Donald Trump worked actively to scuttle the deal that eventually saw telecom giant AT&T acquire media behemoth Time Warner, which is the parent firm of Trump nemesis, CNN.

Trump pressured Gary Cohn, former director of the National Economic Council (NEC), to tell the Department of Justice (DOJ) to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger deal, according to an exposé by The New Yorker.

"I've been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing's happened!” Trump told former Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to sources. “I've mentioned it 50 times. And nothing's happened. I want to make sure it's filed. I want that deal blocked."

Cohn was in the Oval Office when Trump told Kelly to make sure to file the case blocking the merger. After the meeting, Cohn told Kelly not to follow through with the president's request, according to The New Yorker story. The DOJ eventually filed a court case in June 2018 to block the merger.

Cohn, the White House and the DOJ didn’t immediately respond to media request for comment. The DOJ has long denied politics played a role in their decision to file a lawsuit blocking the deal.

AT&T and Time Warner eventually won twice in its legal battle against the DOJ, which lost the first trial in 2018 and a subsequent appeal.

On Feb. 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. approved AT&T's takeover of Time Warner, and handed the Trump administration its second defeat in this court case. The appeals court affirmed the $81 billion vertical merger won't harm consumers or competition in the booming pay-TV market

The appeals court decision to uphold the previous ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in June 2018 was unanimous. Leon dismissed the government's argument AT&T's takeover of Time Warner will hurt competition, limit choices and boost prices for consumers that watch TV and movies.

Opposing the merger forced the DOJ to argue against standing legal doctrine that favors vertical mergers among firms that don't compete directly against each other.

Legal experts noted that Trump’s lawsuit against AT&T is the first time in decades the federal government has challenged the vertical merger doctrine.

Political pundits said that while Trump was vociferously opposed to the AT&T Time Warner merger because he wanted to punish CNN, Trump blessed the merger of the Walt Disney Company with 21st Century Fox, parent firm of Fox News, which is Trump’s favorite source of news.

The CNN logo adorns the top of CNN's offices in Hollywood. Donald Trump pressured the Justice Department to block the AT&T Time Warner merger to punish CNN for opposing him. David McNew/Newsmakers

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of 21st Century Fox, is one of Trump’s closest confidants. Murdoch stands to earn more than $2 billion from the merger with Disney. Trump also publicly congratulated Murdoch for selling most of 21st Century Fox to Disney.

The New Yorker story said that "under Trump the government has consistently furthered Murdoch's business interests, to the detriment of his rivals."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said he’s "long feared Trump would use the instruments of state power to carry out his vendetta against the press he has attacked as the 'enemy of the people.'"