AT&T chief says hiring Cohen was 'a big mistake'

Devin Lawrence
May 12, 2018

It's unrealistic to think Judge Richard Leon would have ruled in favor of AT&T but would now change his mind after hearing about the Cohen deal, he says.

The disclosure of AT&T's ties to Cohen comes a critical moment for the company, which is defending its merger with Time Warner in federal court against the Justice Department's efforts to block the deal.

In an internal email to employees obtained by The Post, AT&T said Cohen was among "several consultants" the company hired in early 2017 "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".

With five simple words, "the president denied the merger", President Trump's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani contradicted months of statements by the White House and the Justice Department. There has been no communication with Mueller's office since then, the company said.

Stephenson's apology was also an extraordinary admission from a company that has long run one of Washington's largest and most sophisticated lobbying shops and donates millions of dollars each year to hundreds of candidates on both sides of the aisle.

Cohen received $600,000 from AT&T, $1.2 million from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis and $500,000 from an investment bank affiliated with a Russian oligarch, all following Trump's unexpected election win in 2016.

"To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate", Stephenson wrote in the memo.

"In this instance, our Washington D.C. team's vetting process clearly failed, and I take responsibility for that", he added.

Stephenson noted in the letter that a senior vice president of the company's internal government affairs group will be retiring in the wake of the Cohen revelations.

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The sources wished to remain anonymous because they are not permitted to speak to the media. Quinn declined to comment.

Cohen had reached out to AT&T even before Stephenson's huddle with the president, the person said.

David's number one priority is to ensure every one of the individuals and firms we use in the political arena are people who share our high standards and who we would be proud to have associated with AT&T.
"He's going to do what he finds to be in the best interest of Americans across the country", Sanders said.

Last week, Mr. Trump said he would "love" to be interviewed by Mueller, but only if he's "treated fairly".

The company also said in the fact sheet that it had been contacted late previous year about Cohen by the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and other matters, and had "cooperated fully" with the inquiries.

An attorney for Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Novartis said it discovered soon after signing the contract that Cohen could not provide the services he had promised and allowed the contract to expire.

AT&T's relationship with Cohen was revealed this week by an attorney for Clifford, the porn actress whose stage name is Stormy Daniels and who alleges she had a sexual affair with Trump years ago, and was paid $130,000 just before the election to keep it quite. He denies any encounter took place.

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