With so many presidential schemes and scandals going on at once, it becomes nearly impossible to keep everything straight. Every lie and deflection must be carefully spoken. Despite White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ tenacity at dodging the truth, she’s still only human, and bound to screw up eventually.
On Friday, Sanders tried to make the absurd argument that news of AT&T’s $600,000 deal with Donald Trump’s bag man Michael Cohen, in which Cohen agreed to help the telecom giant with its sought–after Time Warner merger, somehow vindicates the president. The evidence of this, she said, was that Trump and the Justice Department strongly oppose the merger. So, the pay–to–play accusations can’t be true, she argued.
“This further proves the president is not going to be influenced by special interests,” she told reporters, as reported by The Hill. “This is actually the definition of ‘draining the swamp.’”
She added: “I think it’s pretty clear the Department of Justice opposed the merger, so the president or his administration hasn’t been influenced by any outside special interest...He’s going to do what he finds to be in the best interest of Americans across the country.”
As she so often does these days, Sanders referred follow–up questions to Trump’s outside counsel.
But as the Twitter universe pointed out, following this logic implies that Trump would have had to know of Cohen’s activities, which included accepting $1.2 million from pharmaceutical giant Novartis and $500,000 from a company linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. And this is likely only the tip of the iceberg.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen also made a similar overture to Ford Motor Co. in January 2017, but was rebuffed.
According to the newspaper:
Mr. Cohen, touting his proximity to the president, contacted Ford’s office in Washington, D.C.—an approach that Special Counsel Robert Mueller learned about in the course of his investigation, the people said.
Mr. Mueller’s team has since requested information from Ford about the outreach, including emails and records, and has interviewed Ford’s head of government affairs, Ziad Ojakli, the people said.
It’s been widely speculated that Trump opposes AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner because he hates CNN so much. Trump made numerous comments during the presidential campaign that made it clear he would oppose it. “Deals like this destroy democracy,” Trump said a month before the 2016 election.
But he also went after pharmaceutical companies. In January 2017, Trump said drug manufacturers are “getting away with murder” with their pricing policies. And the same month, The Wall Street Journal reported that auto executives—including those from Ford—were extremely nervous about a Trump presidency.
Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields even reread Trump’s Art of the Deal.
The Journal noted:
Few industries have spent as much time in Mr. Trump’s crosshairs as the U.S. auto sector. Less than a decade after U.S. auto makers bounced back from near catastrophe thanks to a bailout from Washington, they have been rattled by a series of tweets by Mr. Trump accusing them of not being sufficiently committed to U.S. jobs and investment, given their heavy reliance on overseas production.
See the pattern here? One doesn’t have to be a cynic to notice the striking similarities all of this has to a mob extortion racket. And Cohen apparently wasn’t the only one attempting to do this. According to the Daily Beast, another lobbying firm, Avenue Strategies, founded by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former campaign senior adviser Barry Bennett, also approached AT&T offering “to get them in the new administration’s good graces,” according to the report.
Avenue’s price for these services, $40,000 a month, was much lower than Cohen’s. But ultimately, AT&T turned down the offer and decided to go with Cohen. And it’s probably unlikely that this happened without Donald Trump’s blessing. Sarah Huckabee Sanders just told us so.