Not just Michael Cohen: AT&T hit up other allies for Trump intel

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This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the USA print edition of The Wall Street Journal (May 12, 2018).

"Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged", AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson wrote in a companywide internal email.

President Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Saturday that the president did not intervene in the Justice Department's decision to block the AT&T- Time Warner merger - walking back earlier comments appearing to suggest that Trump did.

Mr. Cohen also reached out to Ford Motor Co., but the auto maker turned him down, according to people familiar with the matter.

"The president has been very busy", Giuliani said.

Cohen and others were hired to help navigate "a wide range of issues", including AT&T's proposed US$85 billion merger with Time Warner Inc, the company said in the memo.

Trump has personally railed against the Time Warner-AT&T deal, a stance that may well have more to do with his burning hatred of CNN than anything else. But Weinstein says the judgement used to hire Cohen, of all people, is bad optics for the company.

AT&T's head lobbyist, Bob Quinn, who oversaw the hiring of Cohen, is retiring, according to the memo. Quinn did not respond to a request for comment.

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Payments that AT&T (NYSE:T) made to President Trump's personal lawyer aren't likely to have any bearing on the judge's decision in a landmark antitrust trial, Cowen says.

Avenatti has declined to disclose his sources for the knowledge he launched, a number of firms have now publicly confirmed their consulting offers with Cohen. Both companies said they cooperated fully and consider the matters closed, but that hasn't stopped Avenatti. "Nobody's going to pay you $600,000 to tell you something you could have read in your paper this morning", Mr. Sandstrom said.

Cohen's payment to the president's accuser in the weeks leading up to the presidential election could be cast as an illegal contribution but not if he were acting on the president's behest and with his money.

"I haven't talked to him in detail except for the first day it came out". He took over the top job in Washington right before Trump's election. It was through Essentials Consulting that AT&T retained Cohen. If Cohen paid Daniels for her silence without Trump's knowledge, such action was unethical and can not be condoned.

The president also told him that he had "no idea" of the influence Cohen claimed to have in his business contracts and that Cohen "certainly never lobbied" him, according to Giuliani. The two sides have spent the past two months battling in federal court. The Justice Department filed suit a year ago seeking to block the deal, and a judge is expected to rule on the matter in June.

In fact, AT&T says it's done exactly that with previous administrations too. The Justice Department has denied politics played any role in the lawsuit.

"It's no secret this type of activity goes on in D.C. regularly as companies and organizations try to understand the political climate - as well as the leadership that is driving the D.C. agenda", said Nicol Turner-Lee, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former policy advocate for the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council.

AT&T is no stranger to Washington politics.

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