March 6, 2018 / 1:21 AM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-Lawsuit seeks White House, Justice Dept records on Fox-Disney deal

(Adds statement from group, prior White House statement)

WASHINGTON March 5 (Reuters) - A nonprofit group with a mission to protect democracy filed a lawsuit on Monday seeking any records of communications between the White House and the Justice Department over Walt Disney Co's $52.4 billion deal to buy film, television and international businesses from Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.

The group, Protect Democracy Project Inc, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington seeking any records of communications about Fox's Rupert Murdoch or the Fox-Disney transaction.

The lawsuit also seeks "any related antitrust enforcement efforts by the DOJ, to find out whether the president or his administration is improperly interfering with the independence of the DOJ out of favoritism for a political ally."

The White House, the Justice Department and Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Fox declined to comment.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has attacked AT&T Inc's $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc deal, spoke to Murdoch in December and congratulated him on the deal, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

She said in December that Trump "thinks that, to use one of the president’s favorite words, that this could be a great thing for jobs."

Last month, a federal judge denied AT&T's request to see White House communications that might shed light on whether Trump pressured the Department of Justice to try to block the wireless carrier’s purchase of Time Warner. Trump has frequently attacked Time Warner’s CNN news channel.

Protect Democracy, which describes itself as a non-partisan group seeking to prevent American society from "descending into a more autocratic form of government," in November filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department seeking similar communications in the AT&T-Time Warner deal. That lawsuit is pending.

Protect Democracy said in a statement the lawsuit is "part of our larger mission to counter the president’s attempt to undermine two key pillars of our democratic system – fair and independent law enforcement, and freedom of the press, most critically, freedom to dissent against the government." bit.ly/2I4vDUs

Last week, Comcast Corp’s proposed buying Sky Plc for $31 billion, raising the specter of a potential bidding war between Fox and Disney. Disney had agreed to buy a number of Fox assets, including Fox’s stake in Sky, in December. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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