Just three days after President Donald Trump was sworn into office, AT&T retained Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Why exactly? Well, they were looking for help on a bunch of issues that were before the federal government. Including the company’s proposed merger with Time Warner. Before I go any further, doesn’t this reak of conflict of interest? Sure, a lawyer isn’t supposed to disclose any information about other clients that they may have. But the fact that AT&T is using Donald Trump’s personal lawyer certainly stinks. Documents obtained by The Washington Post detail the full scope of the deal that Cohen had with AT&T. Of which, included $600,00 and how he would provide advice on the $85 million merger, which, of course, required the approval of antitrust regulators.
Trump had voiced opposition to the merger during the presidential campaign, and his administration ultimately opposed the AT&T effort. The Justice Department filed suit in November to block the deal, and that case is pending. It was until this week that Cohen’s deals with AT&T and other private companies were revealed this week by Stormy Daniel’s lawyer. But the new documents obtained by The Washington Post offer greater detail about his arrangement with AT&T and the type of work that they hired him to perform.
I have been saying for some time that Trump is only out for himself. Especially when it comes to big-time deals that he’s supporting or not support. But I’ve never really been able to piece it together. So if you’re still on the fence consider this – Cohen is a real estate attorney and a former taxicab driver. I’m not saying that he’s not intelligent, or qualified to do his job. But what kind of advice can a real estate lawyer provide AT&T on some extremely complicated telecom matters? Let’s be honest for a moment. I don’t think he can. And yet, somehow, Trump’s personal lawyer is advising on a massive merger that is bound to shake up the telecom industry?
Here’s where it also gets shady. During that time, Cohen was being paid a ton of money by other companies to advise on a wide array of issues – including the Affordable Care Act, accounting practices, and real estate. In the wake of Trump’s election, corporate clients paid Cohen at least $2.95 million through a company called Essential Consultants. Essential Consultants was the same company Cohen used in October 2016 to route money to Daniels in exchange for her agreement not to disclose an alleged affair with Trump.
It doesn’t stop there though. AT&T and Novartis (another client of Cohen’s and a pharmaceutical company) said that they provided information about their dealings with Cohen to special counsel Robert Mueller. Cohen is also under investigation by prosecutors in New York for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations. But Cohen isn’t a lobbyist. And yet, that seems to be what he’s doing.
The documents obtained by The Post specified that Cohen, who was not a registered lobbyist, was to spend none of his time engaged in lobbying. They described his work as advising the company, not contacting federal officials. Under federal rules, individuals must register as lobbyists if they spend 20 percent of their time working for a client on legislative and executive branch issues and if they have had contact with at least two government officials related to that client. Cohen’s work for AT&T didn’t meet that definition. However, hiring the president’s personal lawyer could trigger ethical questions.
And that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? I mean, Trump’s entire presidency is, in some way, ethically murky. But maybe not illegal. Which is why we nothing is being done about any of this, and nothing ever will. Trump has too many people around him willing to take the fall. But maybe this time it won’t play out that way since Cohen might find himself in illegal territory.