AT&T: Cohen hiring a 'big mistake'

Sean Reid
May 13, 2018

AT&T is no stranger to Washington politics. Last year, AT&T spent almost $17 million on federal lobbying, the third highest among companies. On Friday, AT&T's chief executive, Randall L. Stephenson, even admitted such in a memo to employees.

But Quinn appeared to recognize that the Cohen deal was a mistake, according to another person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss Quinn's situation. Under the one-year contract, the company has said, Cohen was hired to provide "insights into understanding the new administration".

Quinn's predecessor, Jim Cicconi, was among a handful of Republicans backing Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. But AT&T said it did not meet with Avenue a second time.

AT&T's head lobbyist, Bob Quinn, who oversaw the hiring of Cohen, is retiring, according to the memo.

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.

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

"I think it's pretty clear, the Department of Justice opposed the [AT&T/Time Warner] merger, and so certainly the president has not been influenced, or his administration influenced, by any outside special interest", Sanders beamed. The one-year contract at $50,000 per month, ran from January through December 2017 and was limited to consulting and advisory services.

Giuliani also told CBS News that while the president's legal team has been in touch with special counsel Robert Mueller's team earlier this week, there are no significant developments in that area.

The U.S. government spent $2 billion in 2015 on three Novartis cancer drugs for its Medicare health program for the elderly, Wyden said in his letter.

Cohen's payments from companies while acting as a personal lawyer to the President may raise legal issues besides whether the consulting work constituted lobbying.

Essential Consultants was the same firm Cohen used in October to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for an agreement not to disclose her alleged affair with Trump.

News of AT&T's overtures to Avenue sheds additional light on its government relations strategy early in the Trump administration-which included its hiring of Cohen through an anonymous shell company, a decision that resulted in the ouster of a senior AT&T executive on Friday.

"Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days, and our reputation has been damaged", Stephenson wrote in a memo to employees.

Reports that President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen brought in millions of dollars peddled his influence to various companies proves Trump has drained the swamp, White House press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Friday's briefing.

Shares in AT&T briefly fell on Wednesday to their lowest point since August 2015.

Trump has personally railed against the Time Warner-AT&T deal, a stance that may well have more to do with his burning hatred of CNN than anything else.

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, said it is "highly unusual for the president to be involved in DOJ merger decisions" in a reaction to the Huffington Post article on Twitter. A close friend of Clinton's, Jordan chaired his presidential transition team in 1992 while also working for the powerhouse lobbying firm Akin Gump. "They have a very deep bench", Feld said in an interview.

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