The payments went to the Essential Consultants LLC, the same shell company Cohen used to pay $130,000 in hush money to a pornographic actress who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
"To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate".
In an internal memo to employees, obtained by The Associated Press, CEO Randall Stephenson called the hiring a "serious misjudgment, '" and said that the company's chief lobbyist in Washington is leaving. It was unclear what insights Cohen, a longtime real estate attorney, would have been able to offer AT&T on a complicated telecommunications-entertainment merger, the Post pointed out. AT&T's business with Cohen came amid a major antitrust showdown with the Trump administration, as the phone giant has been seeking USA government approval for its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Cohen was one of "several consultants" the Dallas-based telecom company hired for insight, according to an email sent to US employees on Wednesday. "They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017".
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".
AT&T chief says hiring Cohen was 'a big mistake'
Companies routinely hire political consultants at the outset of new administrations, he said, and AT&T has done so in the past. Attorneys for Cohen responded to Avenatti's report on Wednesday, saying it comprised " quite a few incorrect statements ".
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Both companies say they cooperated with Mueller's office. Avenatti on Tuesday revealed a series of payments to Cohen from AT&T, Novartis (NVS), Korea Aerospace Industries and others.
The company official responsible for hiring Cohen, senior executive vice president Bob Quinn, is retiring, Stephenson said.
Cohen, the subject of a criminal investigation by prosecutors in NY, has acknowledged paying $130,000 to the adult film star actress Stormy Daniels before the election to buy her silence about an alleged relationship with Trump in 2006.
The Justice Department is seeking to block AT&T's $85 billion purchase of Time Warner on the grounds that it would stifle competition. "This is the definition of draining the swamp that the president talked about in the campaign". According to the document, AT&T made four payments of $50,000 each between Oct. 3 of a year ago and January 3 to Essential Consultants, a DE firm that was reportedly created in October 2016 ahead of the United States presidential election to pay Clifford.
Time Warner, with which AT&T wants to merge, owns CNN. While Novartis got little from Cohen, the arrangement dragged Novartis into Mueller's investigation.