AT&T hired Cohen for advice on Time Warner merger

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"There is no other way to say it - AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake", Stephenson said in a letter to employees. The government has urged AT&T to divest either DirecTV, its satellite pay TV service with more than 20 million subscribers, or Time Warner's Turner cable channels as a condition for approving the acquisition. In the intermal memo, Stephenson said "everything we did was done according to the law".

Stephenson partially laid the blame for Cohen's hire with AT&T's Washington, D.C. office where the "vetting process clearly failed, and I take responsibility for that". The leader of that office, Senior Executive Vice President Bob Quinn, is retiring, Stephenson said. Still, experts say it doesn't paint Novartis and AT&T in the best light.

"Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration", said AT&T in a statement according to CNBC White House reporter Christina Wilkie. Cohen's pitch: "He was going to leave the Trump Organization and do consulting for a select few companies that wanted his opinion on the new President and his administration - the key players, their priorities, and how they think", AT&T said. But, he added, "the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment".

Meanwhile, attorney Michael Avenatti, who defends the interests of porno star Stormy Daniels vs. Trump, wrote in his Twitter that Michael Cohen had received $500 thousand from the Russian oligarch Vekselberg. A source with knowledge of the matter said he is leaving under pressure.

The domains, which include alternate-right.com, alt-rights.com and alternate-rt.com, were created in August 2016 during the presidential campaign season.


Cohen's political payments, which also came from Novartis and Korea Aerospace Industries, have been increasingly scrutinized in recent days and may attract the attention of investigators. According to the document, AT&T made four payments of $50,000 each between Oct. 3 of previous year and January 3 to Essential Consultants, a DE firm that was reportedly created in October 2016 ahead of the U.S. presidential election to pay Clifford.

The CEO of AT&T on Friday told his employees that the company made a "big mistake" by hiring Michael Cohen to get insider insight into the Trump administration - a decision said to have cost a top exec his job.

In addition to the Time Warner merger, AT&T has also lobbied the Trump administration for tax cuts and a repeal of net neutrality rules that require telecom companies to treat all Internet traffic equally.

The payments are now under scrutiny in part because Cohen is under federal investigation.

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