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AT&T CEO says Michael Cohen payments ‘big mistake,’ chief lobbyist retiring

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Hiring President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was a “big mistake,” AT&T Inc  Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said in an employee memo, reviewed by Reuters, that went out Friday morning.

AT&T’s head lobbyist, Bob Quinn, who oversaw the hiring of Cohen, is retiring, according to the memo.

AT&T said on Tuesday it had hired Essential Consultants LLC, a company used by Cohen, to advise it on working with the new administration in early 2017, around the time of Trump’s inauguration.
The disclosure of AT&T’s relationship with Cohen has turned into a major embarrassment for the telecommunications company as it awaits a U.S. judge’s June 12 decision on whether it can go through with an $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc.
The deal, which was announced in October 2016, was quickly denounced by Trump, who has been sharply critical of CNN, a unit of Time Warner.

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

AT&T did not hire Cohen to lobby on behalf of the company, according to the memo. The one-year contract at $50,000 per month, from January through December 2017, was limited to consulting and advisory services, according to the memo.

AT&T never asked Cohen to set up meetings for the company with anyone in the Trump administration, and he did not offer to do so, according to the memo.

AT&T’s board of directors does not hold Stephenson responsible for the lack of vetting, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The AT&T payments were revealed by Michael Avenatti, adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, who also said a company owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and other corporations paid Essential Consultants for certain services.

Essential Consultants paid $130,000 to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, days before the 2016 presidential election as part of a nondisclosure agreement that barred her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. He denies any encounter took place.

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Shares of AT&T were 0.4 percent higher in premarket trading.

Reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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‘A slam-dunk-case’: MSNBC analysts predict GOP will defend Trump — and ‘the guy is going to get off’

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More evidence was outed Sunday as the Wall Street Journal revealed emails from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who promised to keep the White House abreast of President Donald Trump's demand for an investigation by Ukraine. The news prompted an MSNBC panelists to explain that it wouldn't matter how much evidence was presented, Republicans will never vote to remove Trump.

Host Geoff Bennett asked about the witness testimony and preponderance of evidence that "all points in one direction at this point, that President Trump orchestrated this entire" Ukraine investigations.

"It's a slam dunk case, and yet we know the guy is going to get off," said Los Angels Times White House reporter Eli Stokols. "That's effectively what you're saying. Because all the testimony has lined up so closely, the fact that [EU Ambassador Gordon] Sondland has come to come in, and because testimony from [Ambassador Bill] Taylor and others, has had to change testimony, Republicans have no choice -- the president has no choice but to try to dismiss the entire thing as partisan."

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President helped ‘increase anti-Trump turnout’ in red-state governor’s races — which could spell disaster for the GOP

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President Donald Trump was once the Republican Party's greatest asset in an election, mobilizing thousands of supporters to rush to the polls. Recently, however, it seems he's now driving anti-Trump votes up so much that it may no longer be worth the Trump trouble.

“So you’ve got to give me a big win, please,” Trump told a Louisiana crowd this week before the GOP candidate lost the governor's race in a red state.

“What Trump did in Louisiana was increase voter participation. While he increased the pro-Trump turnout, he also increased the anti-Trump turnout. That’s kind of the lesson here,” polling analyst Ron Faucheux told The Washington Post in an interview.

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Fire holds off Hong Kong police at campus as democracy protests escalate

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A large fire held off an apparent police advance on the Hong Kong campus where hundreds of pro-democracy protesters were holed up early Monday, hours after officers warned they may use "live rounds" if confronted by deadly weapons in a dangerous escalation of the near six-month crisis engulfing the city.

Protests have rocked the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.

China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.

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