Cowen: AT&T/Cohen deal shouldn't influence Time Warner trial

Jack Plunkett  Bloomberg via Getty Images FILE

AT&T Inc on Friday (May 11) ousted its top lobbyist, and the No. 2 wireless carrier's chief executive said it was a "big mistake" to hire Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, for advice on working with the Trump administration. Because Cohen works for Trump, the media therefore believes the president is involved in a "pay-to-play" scheme with AT&T.

The documents detail the full scope of Cohen's $600,000 deal with AT&T and how his contract specified that he would provide advice on the $85 billion merger, which required the approval of federal antitrust regulators.

Quinn started with the Bell system as an operator for Illinois Bell in 1980, before AT&T was broken up by the Justice Department in a landmark antitrust action four years later.

Trump has always been a vocal opponent of the AT&T-Time Warner merger, apparently in part because of his antipathy for Time Warner-owned CNN, which he has labeled "fake news" for its negative coverage of him.

While Trump has been consistent about his opposition to the AT&T deal, "he didn't interfere" with the Justice Department case, Giuliani told CNN.

AT&T noted in the fact sheet that Cohen was among "several consultants" the company hired as Trump was assuming the presidency. "Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act", the company said in a statement to CNBC.

Analysts said they did not expect the revelations about AT&T's ties to Cohen to affect the government's lawsuit to block the company's merger with Time Warner.

Cohen is also under investigation by prosecutors in NY for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations. But Cohen's hiring has proven to be an embarrassment for AT&T.

'Everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate.'

She has requested a copy of the contract between Novartis and Essential Consultants, a list of meetings and calls that took place between the two entities, contact with Trump administration officials in the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, and any other information about other contracts or payments over $1 million with consultants "to gain access to and insight into the White House or Department of Health and Human Services". But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment.

It was about that time that the company heard from Cohen, 51, described alternately as Trump's "personal lawyer" or his "fixer".

Essential Consultants was the same company Cohen used in October 2016 to route money to Daniels in exchange for her agreement not to disclose an alleged affair with Trump. The second suit argues that Trump has defamed Daniels by denying her claim that a mystery man threatened to hurt her and her baby daughter if she didn't stop talking about Trump. Cohen has not been charged with any crime, and his lawyer has maintained that he has done nothing improper. Quinn did not respond to a request for comment. Both AT&T and Novartis said that special counsel Robert Mueller's office contacted them past year.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters at Trump Tower in New York City on January 12, 2017.

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