AT&T Inc. paid President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, up to $600,000 for insights into how the new administration might handle matters affecting its business, according to a person familiar with the matter. This payment was also confirmed by an official from Novartis who said, 'With a new administration coming in, Cohen promised access.' So they paid $1.2 million for access to the same administration that let Michael Wolff just sit around writing down everything he saw?
Charged with protecting then-candidate Donald Trump from the negative publicity that would arise from his alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, he created Essential Consultants, a company which tried - and, as the last few months prove, failed - to buy her silence for $130,000.
News of payments AT&T made to Cohen's firm surfaced late Tuesday when Michael Avenatti, who is representing Daniels, shared on Twitter an executive summary of payments made to an account that was used to pay Daniels.
Lawyer Michael Avenatti also said hundreds of thousands of dollars streamed into Trump attorney Michael Cohen's account from companies, including pharmaceutical giant Novartis, AT&T and Korea Aerospace, with US government business interests.
Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.
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Avenatti won't say where he received the information on Cohen's bank history.
Apart from these companies, Cohen's firm also received money from a troubling source, Columbus Nova, a NY investment firm with close ties to billionaire Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
AT&T said it hoped to gain "insights" into the new administration at a time when it sought approval from antitrust regulators for an $85 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. This form of consulting grew dramatically under former President Barack Obama, who imposed regulations barring lobbyists from taking government jobs or entering the White House.
Andrey Shtorkh, a spokesman for Vekselberg and the Renova Group, said in a statement that "neither Victor Vekselberg nor Renova has ever had any contractual relationship" with Cohen or Essential Consultants. Their contract ended this past December, the company said.
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Reporting from CNBC suggests AT&T's contract with Trump attorney Michael Cohen may have been much more than initially thought.
"Heads should roll over the AT&T and Novartis payments to Michael Cohen's slush fund", said the headline in the Los Angeles Times.
Novartis not only confirmed it had set up a one-year agreement with Cohen that was "focused on United States healthcare policy matters", but that it was approached by the special counsel's office in November 2017 and asked about the payments.
Getting into a taxi in New York City Wednesday, Cohen said of Avenatti, "His document is inaccurate", according to NBC News.
Public Citizen also called on the Justice Department to investigate whether Cohen's consulting business, Essential Consulting LLC., could be in violation of any laws. In a statement the company says it "cooperated fully with the Special Counsel's office and provided all the information requested", according to Newsweek. In such cases, prosecutors often bring charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which allows investigators to file different crimes under the same trial or within one indictment.
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