A man uses a temporary phone set up by AT&T to make a call at a location set up for victims of the nearby fires by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the Scripps Ranch neighborhood of San Diego, California on October 30, 2003. (Photographer: Ramin Talaie/ Bloomberg News)

AT&T Says It Hired Cohen for Trump's Views on Tax, Antitrust

(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. last year hired a firm founded by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to get advice on how the administration might handle matters such as antitrust enforcement and a corporate tax overhaul, according to an internal email obtained by Bloomberg News.

Cohen was one of "several consultants" the Dallas-based company hired for insight into Trump, according to the email, sent to U.S. employees on Wednesday. Their portfolios consisted of "a wide range of policy issues" such as "regulatory reform" at the Federal Communications Commission. The company didn’t dispute the authenticity of the email.

In a statement released Wednesday night, AT&T said that it had been contacted "regarding Michael Cohen" by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The company said it had "cooperated fully, providing all information requested in November and December of 2017."

The relationship with the lawyer came to light on Tuesday, when AT&T was cited by attorney Michael Avenatti as one of the parties that made payments to Cohen’s firm. Avenatti is representing Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress known as Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000 by Cohen just before the election not to discuss an alleged tryst with Trump.

AT&T made four payments of $50,000 apiece to Cohen’s firm around the end of last year, according to Avenatti. The company said in a statement that the consulting arrangement started in early 2017, suggesting there may have been other payments. The email to employees didn’t mention how much the company paid.

AT&T had significant business before the government. The company was seeking to merge with Time Warner Inc. The Justice Department has since sued to block the merger, and a judge is now weighing whether to approve the deal. AT&T also was seeking to influence a tax overhaul that lawmakers eventually approved.

At the time that AT&T engaged Cohen, it wasn’t aware of "the current controversy surrounding Cohen," the email said, in an apparent reference to his role in hush money payments to Daniels.

"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," said the email.

AT&T said it cut ties with Cohen’s firm in December.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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