Hiring Michael Cohen was a “big mistake,” AT&T’s CEO told employees in an internal memo sent out Friday morning.
Randall Stephenson, the telecom giant’s top boss, characterized the unusual arrangement made with President Trump’s beleaguered personal lawyer as a “serious misjudgment,” but made sure to assure his workers that the deal was on the up-and-up.
“There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake,” Stephenson wrote. “To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate. But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment.”
Reuters first obtained a copy of the apologetic memo, which also noted that the company’s top lobbyist is stepping down.
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AT&T did not hire Cohen to lobby on behalf of the company, according to the memo.
The one-year contract at $50,000 per month, from January through December 2017, was limited to consulting and advising on a variety of matters, including a pending merger with Time Warner.
“Our Washington D.C. team’s vetting process clearly failed” with the Cohen arrangement, “and I take responsibility for that ... My personal commitment to you is — we will do better,” Stephenson wrote.
The company was one of several large corporations that were revealed this week to have paid Cohen for insight into the new President over the last two years.
Cohen’s consultation to AT&T was made public by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels.
Trump and Cohen have admitted that Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 just before the election to buy her silence about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
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The payment to Daniels was made through Cohen’s shadowy shell firm, Essential Consultants, which was also paid by his corporate clients.
On Tuesday, pharmaceutical giant Novartis revealed that it paid Cohen $1.2 million over a year, despite only meeting with the Trump acolyte once.
Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan told employees in an internal memo Thursday that “we made a mistake” in entering a contract with Cohen for guidance “as to how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. health care policy matters.”
Both companies have said that they were contacted by special counsel Robert Mueller regarding their work with Cohen.
Mueller is investigating Russian election meddling and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Cohen’s office, home and hotel room were raided by FBI agents last month. Investigators seized business records, emails and other documents, some related to the Daniels payoff. That probe, being led by the Southern District of New York, is separate from Mueller’s investigation.