President Donald Trump mounted a vigorous defense of his presidency at a White House News Conference Thursday. He says his administration is “running like a fine tune machine,” despite media reports of “chaos.” (Feb. 16) AP

President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, recently met with CNN’s parent company Time Warner and mentioned the cable news network’s coverage of the administration as slanted.

During the meeting at the White House, Kushner expressed concerns about what the administration considers is CNN’s unfair coverage of the President to Gary Ginsberg, Time Warner’s executive vice president of corporate marketing and communications, two persons familiar with the situation said. One of the persons said that topics of the discussion included Israel and Kushner made a joking reference to CNN’s perceived anti-Trump coverage.

Trump disparaged CNN during his press conference Thursday while taking a question from CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta noting “the hatred coming from other people on your network.”

The president has made clear his disdain for CNN. A month ago, during Trump’s first full press conference after being elected, he called CNN a peddler of “fake news” because the network had produced a story reporting that the U.S. intelligence officials had presented Trump and President Obama with a “dossier” of unverified, but potentially compromising information about the president-elect that Russian operatives claimed to have.

What makes the CNN-Time Warner situation so sticky is AT&T’s pending $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner. During the campaign, Trump criticized the merger because the resulting company would have too much market power. “AT&T is buying Time Warner, and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration,” he said in October.

However, post-election meetings with administration officials left AT&T executives with confidence about passage, The Financial Times reported in December, citing persons familiar with the situation.

Trump and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson did not discuss the merger when they met last month, the company said. But Stephenson last week told CNBC he expects the deal to pass Justice Department scrutiny and close by the end of the year. And the subject of the merger reportedly did not arise during Kushner’s recent meeting with Time Warner, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the meeting.

AT&T, Time Warner and CNN declined comment on the meeting.

But two CNN analysts — Republican strategist and commentator Ana Navarro and Van Jones, a former adviser to President Obama — responded to the report on Twitter. Navarro noted that Kushner “who’s supposed to achieve Middle East peace, is complaining about me to CNN,” in a tweet.

Jones used some lyrics from Drake’s song Energy — “Got a lotta people tryna drain me of this energy.” — then added, “But y’all know @CNN has our backs. Do you? RT if yes! (@jaredkushner, u can RT, 2!).”

Both sides in this situation should tread carefully, says John Coffee, a law professor and and director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School. “Time Warner is extremely vulnerable to pressure in this context — although the slightest application of pressure would backfire explosively,” he said. “Trump really cannot afford another fiasco right now when his administration keeps stumbling over itself. Thus, we may be witnessing another self-inflicted wound that is about to occur.”


Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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