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

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson leaves the federal courthouse in Washington on March 22. Stephenson says the company made a “big mistake” in hiring President Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Coh

U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York Thomson Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) - AT&T's $600,000 deal with U.S. President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, specified that Cohen would advise the company on its $85 billion merger with Time Warner, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing company documents.

"There is no other way to say it - AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake", the memo said.

While his exact intent was not clear, Trump was likely reacting to reports that his lawyer Michael Cohen was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by AT&T for a consulting gig that actually amounted to Cohen peddling his access to Trump.

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.

But, Stephenson added, AT&T's Washington team failed to fully vet Cohen before hiring him, and that Stephenson takes responsibility.

The corporate payments he received demonstrate how Cohen was able to turn his ties with the new president into moneymaking opportunities, despite Trump's campaign pledges to "drain the swamp".

The Justice Department wants AT&T to divest Time Warner's DirecTV unit or Turner networks as a condition of approving the acquisition.

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The company said it hired Cohen's firm among "several consultants 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... tax reform and antitrust enforcement, specifically our Time Warner deal".

Mueller's team learned of Cohen's January 2017 offer and has asked Ford for information and records about it and has interviewed Ford's head of government affairs Ziad Ojakli, the person said.

Essential Consultants paid $130,000 to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, days before the 2016 presidential election as part of a nondisclosure agreement that barred her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump.

Earlier this week, the telecommunications giant said it had co-operated when contacted late previous year by investigators from the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel looking into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign.

Stephenson acknowledged that the company's reputation had been damaged when the payments to Cohen came to light.

Cohen was the longtime attorney for Trump and the Trump Organization. They also raise questions about whether Trump knew about the arrangement.

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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