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Justice Dept. to sue to stop AT&T's $85B Time Warner deal

FILE - This Thursday, July 27, 2017, file photo shows an AT&T logo at a store in Hialeah, Fla. AT&T now says it’s “uncertain” when its $85 billion Time Warner purchase will close. AT&T had maintained that the deal would be done by the end of 2017. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

The Justice Department intends to sue AT&T to stop its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of the suit's official filing.

That sets the stage for an epic legal battle with AT&T. The telecom giant's CEO Randall Stephenson said earlier this month that he would not sell "key franchises" of Time Warner to get the deal done.

A person familiar with the matter, who could not go on record, had previously told the AP that DOJ wanted the company to sell either Turner, the parent of CNN, TBS and other networks, or DirecTV.

The government's objections to the deal have surprised many on Wall Street. AT&T and Time Warner are not direct competitors. Mergers between such companies have typically had an easier time winning government approval.

In an emailed statement Monday, AT&T general counsel David McAtee said the lawsuit is a "radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent" and that the company is confident that a court will reject the government's claims.

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Sadie Gurman contributed from Washington.

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