Days ago, Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti revealed the bombshell news that corporate entities have been funneling money into a shell company operated by Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen with what looks very much like a flagrant pay-for-play scandal.
The company, called “Essential Consultants, LLC” was created in October 2016 for “real estate consulting,” but has only dealt in these payments related to issues facing the president. Among those payments was $600,000 from AT&T, which is currently lobbying Trump’s Department of Justice to approve a massive merger with Time Warner.
Given the poor optics of what looks like paying for access to the president amid a merger pending approval from his own DoJ (Trump at that point had signaled his opposition to it), AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson sent a memo out to employees claiming that the move was a mistake– while also suggesting it was fully legal.
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“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.”
Stephenson also announced that Bob Quinn, AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external & legislative affairs, would step down effective immediately. Because nothing says “according to the law and entirely legitimate” like an immediate resignation.
The payment was one of multiple transactions by Essential Consultants, LLC, including:
$130,000 to pay off Stormy Daniels after Trump’s affair with her. Interestingly, Cohen claims he paid this with his own money (and used a home equity line to do so) and that Trump didn’t know about it. Giuliani, however, then claimed Trump did know about it, suggesting that either Trump lied to reporters or Giuliani lied on national television.
$500,000 from Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, worth about $13 billion and with direct ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. For those wondering why Michael Cohen would use a home equity line for the Stormy Daniels payment, one answer would be because he had $500,000 in the pipeline from a Russian billionaire.
$399,920 from pharmaceutical giant Novartis, the CEO of which was then granted a dinner meeting with Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Given the glaringly bad optics of AT&T’s participation, it comes as no surprise that they are on the defense. While the company maintains that its “consulting” was legal, it will be up to a very capable special counselor to determine if – and the extent to which – any wrongdoing occurred.