AT&T Inc. paid President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, up to $600,000 for insights and asked him to look into its proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner Inc. as it sought government antitrust approval, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The figure is about $400,000 more than that alleged by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, who revealed a series of payments to Cohen from AT&T, Novartis AG, Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. and others on Tuesday.
AT&T said in an internal email to employees on Wednesday that Cohen was one of several consultants it hired to get advice on the administration’s approach on antitrust enforcement — as it sought approval for the deal that Trump had criticized — as well as a corporate tax overhaul and “regulatory reform” before the Federal Communications Commission.
The commission chairman, Ajit Pai, said Thursday that the commission never heard from Cohen.
“No,” Pai replied when asked at a news conference about any inquiries arranged by Cohen on possible changes to the commission’s Obama administration requirements that internet services treat all web content equally.
AT&T said in the internal email that it had cut ties in December with Cohen’s firm, Essential Consultants. That’s the same vehicle Cohen used to pay Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, $130,000 just before the election to keep quiet about a sexual encounter that she said she had with Trump a decade ago.
The Justice Department sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger in November, and a federal judge is slated to issue his ruling in that case June 12.
— With assistance by Todd Shields