Daniels' attorney questions Trump lawyer dealings; firms defend payments

Michael Cohen leaves federal court in New York

Three corporations - Novartis, Korea Aerospace Industries, and AT&T - paid a firm linked to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Novartis had its first meeting with Cohen in March 2017 under the consulting arrangement, Althoff told ABC.

A source close to the company tells me that, "with the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain USA healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act".

Novartis said it paid $1.2 million to Cohen's company, Essential Consultants LLC, for a one-year consulting contract on "health care policy matters". Cohen "contacted us after the new administration was in place", a Novartis official told NBC News. "They fail to address, let alone contradict 99% of the statement in what we released", Avenatti said on Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear how Avenatti knew about the payments, and he declined to say how in TV interviews with ABC and MSNBC.

Mr Avenatti is representing Ms Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, who was paid US$130,000 (S$175,138.60) by Mr Cohen just before the 2016 presidential election to remain silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Mr Trump a decade earlier.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators have questioned Vekselberg about the payments that his United States affiliate made to Cohen, a source familiar with the matter has told CNN.

"Following this initial meeting, Novartis determined that Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to USA healthcare policy matters and the decision was taken not to engage further", Novartis said in a statement.

Attorneys for Michael Cohen are disputing portions of a revealing document that outlines details of some of Cohen's financial dealings.

AT&T is also fighting the Federal Trade Commission in court over allegations that the company throttled data for online consumers who used over a certain amount, even after the company's data plan was advertised as "unlimited".

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An internal government watchdog is investigating the possibility that financial records tied to a company founded by Michael Cohen may have been leaked to the press.

The statement began: "In early 2017, as President Trump was taking office, we hired several consultants to help us understand how the President and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company, including regulatory reform at the FCC, corporate tax reform and antitrust enforcement".

The email was first reported by the Dallas News.

A Fox News judicial analyst had a warning Wednesday for President Donald Trump: Be careful.

Mr Vekselberg is among a handful of Russians to have been sanctioned by the USA over the Kremlin's election meddling, the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The source said that the payment to Cohen was for "actual work done", adding: "And it wasn't to pay for access to the president".

Althoff says "the decision was taken not to engage further".

Trump had dinner with Novartis' soon-to-be CEO Vasant Narasimhan, along with other European executives, at the World Economic Forum in Davos shortly after the date of the final payment.

But a source with knowledge of the matter said it was logical to seek "insights" about the new administration from one of Trump's longtime confidants.

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