This is why Novartis paid Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen $1.2 million

Michael Cohen leaving federal court in New York.   Mary Altaffer  AP

Michael Cohen leaving federal court in New York. Mary Altaffer AP

In a fact sheet that accompanied the memo, AT&T said Cohen approached them about working on their behalf in the post-election transition. The news broke last week thanks to Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti, who released documents that seemed to show hundreds of thousands of dollars also streamed to Cohen from AT&T and Korea Aerospace. That was news to many, as the stance of the White House for the last few months has been that Trump has had no hand at all in the merger, a consolidation which the Department of Justice is suing to block.

"Whatever lobbying was done didn't reach the president".

Let's ignore for a moment the truly staggering hypocrisy of AT&T's swampy CEO, Randall Stephenson, who tried to deflect blame for the scandal by throwing his chief Washington lobbyist, Bob Quinn, under the bus.

The disclosure of AT&T's relationship with Cohen has turned into a major embarrassment for the telecommunications company as it awaits a USA judge's decision, due June 12, on whether it can go through with the purchase of Time Warner, a deal that has been denounced by Trump. Though Intrater already managed money for one of the world's richest men, he thought Cohen could provide entree to other potential investors.

Trump has always been a vocal opponent of the AT&T-Time Warner merger, apparently in part because of his antipathy for Time Warner-owned CNN, which he has labeled "fake news" for its negative coverage of him. The comment was meant as a defense of the president in the wake of revelations, first brought to light by Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti, that Trump fixer Michael Cohen had been paid by AT&T for consulting work after Trump's election.

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At the time that AT&T engaged Cohen, it wasn't aware of "the current controversy surrounding Cohen", AT&T said. If Cohen paid Daniels for her silence without Trump's knowledge, such action was unethical and can not be condoned. "But the fact is our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment". He also said the payment "is going to turn out to be perfectly legal" because "that money was not campaign money".

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted Friday that this was "major news" if Giuliani "didn't misspeak".

Stephenson said he took responsibility for the Washington team's failure to vet Cohen.

Still, AT&T and Time Warner executives believed the deal would receive DOJ approval, much like Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal did almost a decade ago.

But Quinn appeared to recognize that the Cohen deal was a mistake, according to another person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss Quinn's situation. Trump had recently been quoted saying "I'm not supposed to be involved in the Justice Department", adding, "I'm not supposed to be doing the kinds of things I would LOVE to be doing, and I'm very frustrated by it". "They were asking him to help them get a feel on the administration and where the administration is going", said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight. "It's clear to me what he sold them", he said.

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