Novartis CEO on Michael Cohen deal

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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended President Donald Trump when asked about the payments between AT&T and the president's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen as the "definition of draining the swamp" on Friday afternoon.

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, said Wednesday that the president was unaware of Cohen's consulting agreements.

When AT&T swung its deal with Cohen, the merger was very much an issue in Washington.

AT&T paid Essential Consultants LLC, a firm set up by Cohen, a total of $600,000 over 2017 for the advice.

"You know, you're really lovely", Trump says to Giuliani.

In its post-trial brief filed on May 3, AT&T-Time Warner's attorneys said that they have not abandoned their "selective enforcement defense", or the idea that they were unfairly targeted.

Earlier this week, the telecommunications giant said it had co-operated when contacted late previous year by investigators from the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel looking into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign.

To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate. It was through Essential Consultants that AT&T retained Cohen.

The AT&T-Time Warner deal, a so-called "vertical merger" among companies that do not compete, is the kind that has historically enjoyed typical regulatory approval. The Justice Department filed suit a year ago seeking to block the deal, and a judge is expected to rule on the matter in June.

Both companies have said they made a mistake working with Essential Consultants. "There's a lot of people in Washington who are paid for their advice". The news broke last week thanks to Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti, who released documents that seemed to show hundreds of thousands of dollars also streamed to Cohen from AT&T and Korea Aerospace.

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AT&T's vast lobbying team, which includes more than 100 people, and public policy staff will now report to the company's general counsel, David McAtee.

The outcome - failing to influence the White House's stance on the proposed $85B acquisition of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) - makes it a "dog bites man" story for analyst Paul Gallant.

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.

A Novartis spokesman said the company anticipated Wyden's letter and plans to fully cooperate.

Another one of Cohen's corporate clients, Novartis, offered a similar explanation.

Sanders noted that the Justice Department had opposed the merger, citing that as proof "the president isn't going to be influenced by outside special interests". The Department of Justice's opposition to the detail raised eyebrows because, while its position may be defensible on antitrust grounds, it doesn't fit with the rest of the Trump administration's laissez-faire ideology. CNN is owned by Time Warner.

Giuliani is also a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY, which is the office now investigating Cohen's business dealings.

Leon is expected to deliver an opinion on the case by June 12. I don't burden them with every single thing that comes along.

Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.