When Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti announced he had bank records revealing that AT&T paid six figures in “consulting” fees to Donald Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen, something extraordinary happened: AT&T almost immediately confessed. Large corporations cannot respond this quickly to developments that unexpectedly throw the company into potential legal peril. Yet AT&T had its statement on the matter all lined up and ready to go.
Now we know that Novartis, one of the other companies who paid bribe money to Cohen, discussed the matter with Special Counsel Robert Mueller before it became public. In other words, Mueller has known about this bribery stuff for awhile (and yes these really were bribes). Here’ the kicker: AT&T has revealed that it spoke with Robert Mueller about the matter late last year, meaning that Mueller knew about it long before the FBI raided Cohen’s office and seized his records.
That partially explains why AT&T already had its official statement ready to go so quickly; its legal department and PR department had already worked out what their position was, and how they wanted to word it. Still, this tells us that AT&T already knew this was going to become public before it happened. AT&T couldn’t have known Avenatti was going to do what he did, yet it was expecting the public to learn about it anyway. In other words, AT&T knew its payoff to Cohen was relevant enough to the criminal case against him that it was going to be used in court at some point.
This also tells us something else: Robert Mueller already investigated the AT&T and Novartis bribes to Donald Trump and Michael Cohen a long time ago. This may explain how Michael Avenatti was able to feel confident that he wasn’t doing any damage to Mueller’s case by publicly releasing the bank records; he must have learned somewhere along the way that Mueller had already taken his turn with it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report