AT&T admits to ‘big mistake’ in hiring Michael Cohen for insights into Trump

AT&T said its top lobbyist, Bob Quinn, would retire. (AT&T)

AT&T’s CEO said that hiring President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen as a consultant was a “big mistake.”

In an email sent to employees, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson said that the company’s “reputation has been damaged.”

“To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate,” Stephenson wrote in the letter. “But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment.”

Here is Stephenson’s full letter to employees:

As a result, Stephenson said AT&T’s current chief Washington lobbyist, Bob Quinn, will retire, and his duties will shift to the company’s general counsel, David McAtee. The Wall Street Journal reported that Quinn was in fact forced to leave AT&T.

AT&T also released a document discussing “facts around AT&T & Michael Cohen” that is available here.

Interestingly, The Washington Post published what appears to be the $600,000 contract between AT&T and Cohen. The publication said it obtained the documents (which are available in full from the Washington Post at the bottom of this article) anonymously, but that AT&T “did not challenge their authenticity.”

According to the documents, Cohen’s Essential Consultants firm would work with AT&T to “address political and communications related issues facing AT&T. The broader strategic team will be expected to regularly advise on corporate interests at the Legislative and Executive (with focus on the FCC) branches of government as well as broader issues facing the AT&T brand and the telecom/tech industry in the media. They will advise on specific long-term planning initiatives as well as the immediate issues of corporate tax reform and the acquisition. corporate interests at the Legislative and Executive (with focus on the FCC) branches of government as well as broader issues facing the AT&T brand and the telecom/tech industry in the media. The position requires focus on specific long-term planning initiatives as well as the immediate issue of corporate tax reform and the acquisition of Time Warner.”

Not surprisingly, the issue appears to have blossomed into a major black eye for AT&T. After all, Cohen is at the center of a controversy involving not only possible Russian influence in U.S. elections—via Robert Mueller's investigation—but also payments Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels to reportedly stay quiet about an affair with Trump.

Meantime, AT&T itself is working to counter a lawsuit filed by Trump’s Department of Justice aimed at blocking the company’s acquisition of Time Warner.