`No' Cohen Inquiries to FCC on Net Neutrality on AT&T's Behalf

(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. turned to Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, in the early days of the administration to find out how the new president would handle such issues as net neutrality.

But Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said Thursday they never heard from the guy.

“No,” the Republican replied when asked at a news conference about any inquiries made by Cohen on possible changes to the commission’s Obama-era requirements that internet services treat all web content equally.

AT&T has acknowledged it hired a firm founded by Cohen, seeking “insights” on how the unorthodox candidate would govern as president after his 2016 upset win. Cohen was one of "several consultants" the Dallas-based telecom company hired for insight, according to an email sent to U.S. employees on Wednesday.

Their portfolios consisted of “a wide range of policy issues” such as antitrust, corporate tax reform, and “regulatory reform” at the FCC. 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’s investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by members of Trump’s campaign. The company said it had "cooperated fully, providing all information requested in November and December of 2017."

Payments to Cohen from AT&T and Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG, among others, show how even companies with robust lobbying operations sought knowledgeable insiders to glean insight into Trump’s Washington -- using backdoor channels that may not be illegal, but have now drawn the special counsel’s scrutiny.

Pai moved to gut Obama-era net neutrality rules in May 2017, with a final FCC vote taken in December. The lighter replacement rules take effect June 11.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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