On Wednesday, during an interview at the 2018 Code conference, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson reiterated that hiring President Trump’s besieged lawyer Michael Cohen was “a big mistake.” He added, “President Trump came into office, and nobody knew the guy and the staff he was putting around him, the man, and so our folks in DC had this guy approach them, and thought ‘well, this will be an interesting way to at least get some insight into the administration.’ Bad mistake.”
Enter Daphna Edwards Ziman — the president of independent film and television production company Edwards Entertainment International and a staunch opponent of the AT&T-Time Warner merger. Ziman is using the Cohen connection to punctuate a brief she filed with a US District Judge who is expected to issue a decision on the Justice Department’s attempt to block the deal. Speaking to NBC News, Ziman said, “When AT&T was able buy access to power (Trump), they were trying to not only take the easy way out but erase innovation, public choice and entrepreneurial spirit. AT&T is trying to build an oligopoly. This merger, now more than ever, must be blocked.”
Ziman’s reference to buying access to power relates to the well-publicized $600,000 payment AT&T made to Cohen, which resulted in the departure of AT&T Washington DC chief Robert Quinn.
Ziman is not without connection’s on Capitol Hill. One might even wonder if letters from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to AT&T vis-a-vis Cohen may have been encouraged by the ardent Democratic Party supporter.
Whatever the case, it looks like the Cohen connection will continue to haunt AT&T as it pursues its landmark deal.