AT&T earns a swampy scarlet letter for paying $600000 to Trump's fixer

AP News in Brief at 6:04 am EDT

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, center, leaves federal court, in New York, April 16, 2018. Then Tuesday, Avenatti claimed Cohen received $500,000 in payments from businesses - including one linked to a Russian billionaire - through a company he established shortly before the 2016 election.

"Look, let me say this, to the extent that it's not accurate", Avenatti said of the explosive claim he backed with a seven-page online document, "The president and Michael Cohen should clear this up this morning".

Cohen, Trump's attorney and fixer for the past decade, is under criminal investigation in NY and his home and office were raided by the FBI last month. The raids were carried out by federal agents looking for evidence in a criminal probe. Cohen's lawyers said that the some of the information in the summary appears to be erroneous, conflating their client with another man by the name of Michael Cohen. "Among other things, they effectively concede the receipt of the $500,000 from those with Russian ties", Avenatti tweeted.

Although the companies have cited various reasons for their payments, an insider from one of the firms has reportedly said, Cohen promised access to the president and his administration, posing as a "lobbyist". Reuters, however, reports that payments were made monthly from February 2017 to February 2018, bringing the total closer to $1 million. After a single meeting, the company decided "not to engage further", it said.

But in a memo to employees sent Wednesday, the telecommunications giant says it didn't pay Michael Cohen for legal or lobbying work.

None of it boded well for a firm seeking approval for an $85.4 billion merger with a media company that the incoming president had publicly attacked and that had various other matters pending in Washington.

The revelation also drew attention to another potential line of inquiry in U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and potential collusion by Trump's campaign.

Novartis also said it was contacted by Mueller's team last November, and was asked about the deal with Cohen.

Initially, Michael Cohen meant to pay Stephanie Clifford, professionally known as Stormy Daniels, through another DE entity - Resolution Consultants LLC.

Novartis and AT&T said they were contacted by the office of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the situation in late 2017, and provided all the information requested.

An unnamed source told CNBC the contract AT&T had with Cohen may have included payments up to $600,000.

Fox News contributor Byron York expressed skepticism about the importance of Cohen's ties to the oligarch since Robert Mueller's investigators "farmed" it over to the attorneys in the Southern District of NY.

Avenatti released a suspicious activity report Tuesday alleging Cohen conducted "possible fraudulent and illegal financial transactions". But that information is supposed to remain confidential.

Avenatti is responding on Twitter, calling Cohen's filing Wednesday "baseless, improper and sanctionable".

Public Citizen also called on the Justice Department to investigate whether Cohen's consulting business, Essential Consulting LLC., could be in violation of any laws.

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