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AT&T CEO Calls Payment to Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen a ‘Big Mistake’

“Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged,” says Randall Stephenson

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson apologized to employees on Friday for paying President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, as a consultant last year, according to multiple reports.

“Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged,” said Stephenson in a memo to employees, according to CNBC. “There is no other way to say it – AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.”

Reuters was first to report the memo.

Stephenson said the telecom giant paid Cohen $600,000 to better understand President Trump’s thought process, with the pending AT&T-Time Warner merger stuck in limbo. AT&T’s $85 billion bid for the company has been held up by a lawsuit from the Justice Department, which has called the vertical merger a blow for consumers. President Trump ripped the deal almost immediately after it was announced in 2016, saying it was “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”

“AT&T didn’t hire Cohen as a lobbyist,” Stephenson said in the memo. Cohen was paid $50,000 a month from January to December 2017 for consultation, the memo said.

“To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate,” added Stephenson. “But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment. In this instance, our Washington D.C. team’s vetting process clearly failed, and I take responsibility for that.”

The exec also told employees that Bob Quinn, the company’s senior vice president for external and legal affairs, will be retiring.