(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that the president didn’t know about payments his personal lawyer Michael Cohen had received from AT&T Inc., Novartis AG and a firm linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
“The president was unaware of this,” Giuliani said in an interview, referring to the revelations about Cohen’s income that surfaced late Tuesday. “The president is not involved in any respect. It’s a dead issue as far as I’m concerned.”
The payments to Cohen’s firm -- Essential Consultants LLC -- were revealed by attorney Michael Avenatti. Avenatti is representing Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000 by Cohen just before the 2016 presidential election to remain silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier. Cohen made the payment through his firm.
Giuliani said he briefly discussed the payments with Trump by phone Tuesday night, and said neither he nor the president know why Cohen received them.
Vekselberg is among a handful of Russians to have been sanctioned by the U.S. over the Kremlin’s election meddling, the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He is linked to Columbus Nova, one of the firms that paid Cohen. Columbus Nova hasn’t denied making $500,000 in deposits into the Cohen account, but it and Vekselberg deny the money had anything to do with him.
In a statement released Wednesday night, AT&T said that “when we were contacted by the special counsel’s office regarding Michael Cohen, we cooperated fully, providing all information requested in November and December of 2017.
"A few weeks later," the statement continued, "our consulting contract with Cohen expired at the end of the year. Since then, we have received no additional questions from the special counsel’s office and consider the matter closed.”
The company sent an email to U.S. employees earlier on Wednesday saying that Cohen was one of “several consultants” the company hired for insight into Trump. The company was seeking advice on how the administration might handle matters such as antitrust enforcement and a corporate tax overhaul, according to the email obtained by Bloomberg News. AT&T said it cut ties with Cohen’s firm in December.
Novartis said Wednesday that it had a one-year agreement with Cohen’s firm that began in February 2017 and was aimed at gaining insight into the administration’s health-care policy. The company said it quickly determined that Cohen’s firm would be unable to provide the services it anticipated and decided not to engage further, but was contractually bound to keep making monthly payments of $100,000.
Cohen initiated discussions with the drugmaker, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public.
Giuliani said he couldn’t characterize how the president feels about Cohen’s work with these companies.
“From our point of view, we have no reason to be concerned about it or to pursue it any further,” he said.
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