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AT&T paid Trump lawyer for 'insights' on new administration

The payments to Michael Cohen's firm were disclosed in a report shared by Stormy Daniels' lawyer. AT&T has confirmed it.

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Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
Expertise Mobile, 5G, Big Tech, Social Media Credentials
  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng
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AT&T somehow got roped into a scandal that includes a former porn star. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

AT&T paid Michael Cohen's private firm $200,000 to better understand President Donald Trump. 

The revelation emerged from an executive summary shared on Twitter by Michael Avenatti, who is representing former porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. According to the document, AT&T made four payments of $50,000 each between Oct. 3 of last year and Jan. 3 to Essential Consultants, a Delaware firm that was reportedly created in October 2016 ahead of the US presidential election to pay Clifford. Cohen is Trump's longtime personal lawyer. 

AT&T confirmed the payments, but not the amount. It also denied that Essential did any legal or lobbying work for the company. 

"Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration," a spokeswoman said in an email.

The revelation comes as AT&T spars with the US Justice Department over the right to acquire Time Warner. AT&T argues that the deal is critical to enabling the company to compete against tech titans like Google and Netflix, and that the deal doesn't snuff out a competitor. The US government argues that combining a telecom giant, which owns wireless and wired Internet assets, with one of the premiere media properties in the world, would create too powerful a player in the media landscape. 

The White House wasn't available to comment on the story.