PopPolitics: AT&T’s ‘Big Mistake’ Came Amid a Scramble to Connect with Trump (Listen)

Michael Cohen
AP Photo/Richard Drew

WASHINGTON — AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says that AT&T’s decision to hire Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, shortly after the inauguration, was a “big mistake.”

What wasn’t all that unusual, however, for AT&T and other companies, was the scramble to find any connection to the Trump administration after so many in D.C. assumed that Hillary Clinton would be the victor.

On the latest “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM, Dave Levinthal of the Center for Public Integrity talks about the drive for influence in the early days of the administration and the dividing line between business consulting — which Cohen did — and lobbying.

“Having somebody like a Michael Cohen involved, who very intimately knows Donald Trump, and somebody who has worked with Donald Trump for such a long time, he would not only come at a very high price, but he would oftentimes come with very good information for your company,” Levinthal says.

He added that Cohen’s $50,000 per month fee was “quite potentially” in line with what other firms would charge. “It seems like a lot of money but it is a very small price to pay for a multi, multi billion dollar company like AT&T that is going to see this as an investment in something that could ultimately pay dividends exponentially.”

Instead, it proved to be an embarrassment for AT&T. The telecommunications giant ended up being contacted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion by members of the Trump campaign. Cohen himself is the subject of an investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, and his home and office were raided by the FBI in April.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, has suggested that more revelations are to come this week about Cohen’s finances. That could shed some light on whether other companies hired him. Novartis paid Cohen even more — $1.2 million for a 12 month contract, and it resulted in just one meeting with the lawyer. The company determined that he would be “unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to U.S. healthcare policy matters.”

Listen below:

A Senate showdown on net neutrality

The Senate may this week vote on a resolution to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which the Republican-majority in the agency rolled back in December.

Democrats see this as a winning political issue. Former FCC official Gigi Sohn, a fellow at Georgetown University Law School and a fellow for Mozilla, talks about the path forward for net neutrality. Even if it passes the Senate, the restoration of the rules will have a tough hurdle in the House and then have to secure President Trump’s signature. But Sohn believes that public pressure is on the side of net neutrality advocates.

Listen below:

Talent agencies get political

Hannah Linkenhoker and Caroline Edwards talk about ICM’s political division, ICM Politics, and why they think that entertainment figures are getting more sophisticated about the way that they engage in partisan political debate and issues.

Listen below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays from 2-3 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.