Senators Query AT&T CEO on Michael Cohen Payments, White House Contacts

Michael Cohen
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WASHINGTON — Three Senate Democrats are asking AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to answer a series of questions over the company’s decision to hire President Donald Trump’s attorney, saying that it raises issues of whether it was a “pay-for-play operation.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) wrote in the letter that “AT&T had a significant financial interest in key administration decisions, including whether the Department of Justice would contest the proposed merger with Time Warner, whether the Federal Communications Commission would overturn net neutrality rules, and whether the Administration would push a tax plan that gave huge breaks to corporations like AT&T.

“Given these ongoing and significant matters, the unusual series of payments by AT&T to the President’s personal attorney raise obvious questions about corruption and whether AT&T, Essential Consultants, and the Trump Administration were engaged in a pay-for-play operation,” the senators wrote. The letter can be found here.

An AT&T spokesperson said, “We are aware of the letter and will respond.”

On Friday, Stephenson sent a letter/email to AT&T employees, calling the decision to hire Cohen a “big mistake.” He announced the departure of Bob Quinn, the head of AT&T’s D.C. office.

Cohen’s consulting firm, Essential Consultants, was among several the company hired to “help us understand how the President and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company, including regulatory reform at the FCC, tax reform, and antitrust enforcement, specifically our Time Warner deal,” the company said.

“To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate,” Stephenson said. “But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment. In this instance, our Washington D.C. team’s vetting process clearly failed, and I take responsibility for that.”

Cohen was paid $50,000 per month in the contract, which ran from January to December of last year, AT&T said.

The senators want to know the names of other consultants hired, whether requests were made for contacts between Cohen and Trump, and whether any of the payments ever were received by Trump. They also refer to a Jan. 12, 2017 meeting between Stephenson and Quinn and Trump, noting that Cohen entered Trump Tower just eight minutes earlier.

“Did you, Mr. Quinn, or any other AT&T executives meet with Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump or any other executives of the Trump Organization on January 12, 2017? If so, did any of those discussions involve a potential work by, or a contract with, Essential Consultants and Mr. Cohen?” the senators asked.

Trump’s new attorney Rudy Giuliani has said that Cohen “certainly never lobbied” Trump. Cohen’s contract did not permit lobbying without first notifying AT&T, and that never occurred, Stephenson said in his letter.