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But he, and the rest of the company, was surprised by the election results and had few connections to Trump's circles. That ranks it among the top spenders inside the Beltway, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The AT&T payments were revealed by Michael Avenatti, lawyer for adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

The payments were made to Essential Consultants, a company created by Cohen one month before the 2016 USA presidential election. Robert Quinn, a veteran lobbyist and attorney who'd led the office, was forced out and AT&T's Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson issued a stinging rebuke.

Stephenson noted that the company's reputation has been damaged and that the vetting process used by its team in Washington "clearly failed".

Trump expressed opposition to the merger during the campaign and his administration ultimately chose to fight it, with the Justice Department filing suit in November to block the agreement.

"What's unfortunate is the company and the individual who was retained because Michael Cohen is in trouble", Cohen said.

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Quinn's predecessor, Jim Cicconi, was among a handful of Republicans backing Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. In a June 2016 statement he said "it's vital to put our country's well-being ahead of party", called Clinton qualified, and said "the alternative, I fear, would set our nation on a very dark path".

Stephenson announced that Bob Quinn, one of the executives involved in the Cohen deal, "will be retiring".

Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City who recently joined Trump's personal legal team, said he represents Trump, not Cohen, but nevertheless believes Cohen did nothing wrong, HuffPost reported.

"Cohen's corporate clients had business pending before the Trump administration", he said.

"I think this further proves that the president is not going to be influenced by special interests", Sanders said.

AT&T and the pharmaceutical company Novartis, another Cohen client, said this week that they provided information about their dealings with Trump's lawyer to special counsel Robert Mueller III previous year.

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The U.S. government spent $2 billion in 2015 on three Novartis cancer drugs for its Medicare health program for the elderly, Wyden said in his letter.

On Jan. 12, 2017, Cohen and AT&T's chief executive, Randall Stephenson, were both seen visiting Trump Tower in NY, days before the contract with Essential Consultants was signed.

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. Stephenson says the company made a "big mistake" in hiring President Donald Trump's attorney Michael Cohen as a political consultant.

Shares of AT&T rose 1.3 percent to close at $32.29.

Wyden, a Democrat from OR, noted in a letter to Narasimhan that at the time Novartis was paying Cohen, it was seeking approval and negotiating a payment deal with the US government for a cancer drug called Kymriah that has a list price of $475,000.

"Do you have the view that all negative stories about the president are fake?" one reporter wondered.

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