Jeffrey Toobin: Lobbying is a 'disgusting profession'

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Thursday blasted Washington, D.C., lobbyists as “sleazebags” in the midst of reports that multiple companies paid President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for insights and access to the president. 

“The idea that someone who has proximity to a legislator, to an executive branch official, can go lobby that person, this is what makes Washington work. This is why Washington is such a sewer. But I’m shocked that everyone’s so shocked,” Toobin said on “The Lead.”

Fellow panelist David Urban, who works at the consulting firm American Continental Group, defended the profession, arguing that it’s protected by the First Amendment as a right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Urban added that the main issue with lobbying is the lack of transparency in the profession.

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Toobin disputed that argument, adding that the profession is ethically questionable even though it’s legal. 

“The idea that the only problem is transparency -- no, the problem is if you have money in the Untied States, you can buy access through lobbying,” Toobin shot back. 

“Lobbying is a disgusting profession that is legal, but the idea that the only problem here is transparency is no, the problem is you can buy influence and access,” he added.

Toobin's diatribe came as reports emerged that Cohen solicited consulting work, pitching himself as close with the president.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Swiss drug company Novartis, AT&T and an American firm with ties to a Russian oligarch paid Cohen through a shell company called Essential Consultants LLC.

That same company was used to make a $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement related to her alleged 2006 affair with Trump.

Novartis and AT&T have since confirmed they paid Cohen to gain insight into the Trump administration. In Novartis' case, Cohen reportedly promised access to the president.

The president is said to have been unaware that Cohen received payments for the consulting services.