AT&T: Hiring Trump attorney Cohen was 'big mistake'

Enron execs — they thought they were the smartest people alive. Until they went down.   PBS

Meanwhile, the AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson stated Friday that the business's chief Washington lobbyist, Bob Quinn, are leaving the company after restarting the hiring of Cohen being a political consultant, that the Wall Street Journal claimed.

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

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended President Donald Trump when asked about the payments between AT&T and the president's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen as the "definition of draining the swamp" on Friday afternoon.

Novartis also said Cohen approached them and offered his consulting services.

Giuliani joined Trump's outside legal team in April to represent Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible ties to Russian Federation.

AT&T said Cohen's company, Essential Consultants, did no legal or lobbying work for the company. AT&T said Cohen and others were hired to help navigate "a wide range of issues", including its proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner Inc, AT&T said in the memo seen by Reuters.

According to the report, AT&T and Avenue discussed a deal that would pay the firm around $40,000/month but would not entail official lobbying - a structure similar to the company's deal with Cohen.

The Dallas-based telecom giant spent more than $350 million on advocacy in the past 20 years - including almost $17 million last year alone.

Quinn did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Here are questions and answers about legal and ethical scrutiny Cohen is facing:Are there any recent parallels to Cohen's arrangement? A lawyer for Mr. Cohen declined to comment Friday.

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"What's unfortunate is the company and the individual who was retained because Michael Cohen is in trouble", Cohen said.

The company's CEO, Vasant Narasimhan, also described his company's deal with Cohen as "a mistake" in a letter to employees earlier this week.

Federal prosecutors are investigating Cohen's business dealings, including a $130,000 payment he made to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels, as part of a deal to buy her silence about an affair she says she had with Trump. Mr. Trump has denied the sexual encounter. There has been no communication with Mueller's office since then, the company said.

Initially, it was believed AT&T paid Cohen $200,000.

"Companies often hire consultants for these purposes, especially at the beginning of a new presidential administration, and we have done so in previous administrations, as well", the company said in the email.

The disclosure of AT&T's relationship with Cohen has turned into a major embarrassment for the telecommunications company as it awaits a USA judge's decision, due June 12, on whether it can go through with the purchase of Time Warner, a deal that has been denounced by Trump. The two sides have spent the past two months battling in federal court.

The chief of the Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, has denied that there was any White House interference in the decision to sue to block the merger, and the White House issued a statement past year saying that "no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter".

AT&T is no stranger to Washington politics. "My personal commitment to you is - we will do better", he wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this record.

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