Democratic senators call for committee to investigate Cohen payments

Democratic senators call for committee to investigate Cohen payments
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Two Democratic senators are calling for the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate AT&T's payments to a shell company owned by Michael Cohen, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE's longtime personal lawyer.

Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Hillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns MORE (Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) raised concerns in a press briefing on Wednesday that the payments could have been used to influence Trump and his administration's policies favoring the abandonment of net neutrality, CNN reported.

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"I think it ought to be a topic for the Judiciary Committee in connection with its continuing investigation, which I hope will review not only those payments, but also those payments that may well have been used to influence the president of the United States," Blumenthal said.

AT&T confirmed on Wednesday that it had made payments to Cohen's shell company, Essential Consultants LLC. That company, which also took payments from Swiss drugmaker Novartis and an American company linked to a Russian oligarch, was then used to pay $130,000 to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement concerning her alleged affair with the president.

AT&T says it provided information on those payments to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's office six months ago as part of Mueller's investigation into Cohen and other Trump confidants.

Cohen "did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017," the company said in a statement. AT&T noted that it engaged Cohen and other consultants to learn more about what to expect for tech policy under a Trump administration.

Cohen's company "was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration," the company said in a statement to The Hill.

An employee for another company, the pharmaceutical manufacturer Novartis, told Stat on Wednesday that Cohen promised access to Trump if the company signed a contract with Cohen.

“With a new administration coming in, basically, all the traditional contacts disappeared and they were all new players,” the employee told the publication. “We were trying to find an inroad into the administration. Cohen promised access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him. It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist.”