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AT&T’s ‘Pay for Play’ Payments to Donald Trump’s Lawyer May Have Been as High as $600,000

Phillip Dampier May 9, 2018 AT&T, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

Earlier press accounts that AT&T paid $200,000 to President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen for “consulting work” was actually closer to $600,000, according to a source talking to Reuters on Wednesday.

AT&T acknowledged on Tuesday it paid $200,000 to Cohen-owned Essential Consultants, a limited liability shell company, claiming it was to help the telecom company gain “insights” into the Trump Administration at the same time it was lobbying to win federal approval of its merger with Time Warner, Inc., and was seeking regulatory favors on issues including net neutrality, broadband regulation, pole attachment fees, municipal broadband, and decommissioning its rural landline network.

The first revelations about AT&T’s payment to the same company used to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels came from her attorney, Michael Avenatti, who released detailed information about payments from AT&T, a pharmaceutical company, and a firm with direct ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, a close confidante of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Reuters reports it was unclear how Avenatti knew about those payments, but his information was detailed and partly confirmed by AT&T, noting payments of $50,000 in October-December, 2017 and one additional payment in January, 2018 of $50,000 — totaling $200,000.

Cohen

However, the contract was for a year, the source told Reuters, meaning AT&T likely paid more than $200,000 to Cohen’s company. A full year contract for $50,000 per month would total $600,000. The source declined to give a total for the payments made by AT&T to Cohen’s company.

It is not known what happened to the money AT&T paid Cohen, but there is speculation the president could have known about the payments and seen them as a goodwill gesture as AT&T battles with the Administration’s Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission over its $85 billion merger deal and accusations it speed-throttled wireless customers who exceeded an arbitrary usage allowance.

AT&T today released a company-wide letter to employees explaining its position on the matter:

From: T Now
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2018 12:10 PM
Subject: Perspective on the news

To: All U.S. AT&T employees

Late yesterday, many media outlets reported that in 2017, AT&T hired Michael Cohen, a former lawyer with the Trump Organization. We want you to know the facts.

In early 2017, as President Trump was taking office, we hired several consultants to help us understand how the President and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company, including regulatory reform at the FCC, corporate tax reform and antitrust enforcement. Companies often hire consultants for these purposes, especially at the beginning of a new Presidential Administration, and we have done so in previous Administrations, as well.

Cohen was one of those consultants. Cohen did no legal or lobbying work for us, and our contract with Cohen expired at the end of its term in December 2017. It was not until the following month in January 2018 that the media first reported, and AT&T first became aware of, the current controversy surrounding Cohen.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said at a press conference that the Judiciary Committee should review the payments AT&T and other companies made to Cohen.

Blumenthal speculated those payments “may well have been used to influence the president of the United States, using Michael Cohen and his shell company as a conduit.”







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