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Huckabee Sanders: Michael Cohen’s AT&T, Novartis Deals Meet ‘Definition of Draining the Swamp’


White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders answered three questions on whether President Donald Trump believes it was appropriate for his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to accept payments from outside companies. She said the deals met the definition of “draining the swamp.”

WATCH the exchanges in the player above.

Cohen has been under fire since Tuesday afternoon when Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, released a report which purported to show payments from a number of entities to a business owned and controlled by Cohen, Essential Consultants, LLC. The payments have since been confirmed by several companies, including telephone provider AT&T and pharmaceutical company Novartis. AT&T said it paid Cohen “to provide insights into understanding the new administration,” but AT&T is now saying the payments were a “big mistake.” Novartis said that Cohen contacted them “promising access” to the new administration. Novartis also called the agreement with Cohen a “mistake.

When asked whether Trump himself thought the payments were a “mistake” as well, Sanders said the following:

I think this further proves that the president’s not going to be influenced by special interests. This is actually the definition of ‘draining the swamp,’ something the president talked repeatedly about during the campaign. For anything beyond that, I would direct you to the president’s outside counsel.

When pressed about the definition of “draining the swamp” and whether AT&T’s attempted merger with Time Warner would have been influenced by any payments by AT&T to Cohen, Sanders said, “I think it’s pretty clear the Department of Justice opposed the merger, and so certainly the president has not been influenced by any — or his administration influenced by any — outside special interest.”

Sanders’ logic appears to suggest that because the DOJ opposed the merger that Trump either didn’t — or wouldn’t — listen to what Cohen may or may not have told him about these companies. Later in the press briefing, a follow-up Q&A occurred:

REPORTER: Does the President think it’s appropriate for his personal attorney to be collecting payments from private companies, presumably saying that, or presumably promising to, influence policy or to give them strategy on government policy?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think the bigger point is the President isn’t gonna be influenced by outside special interests. He’s gonna do what he finds to be in the best interest of Americans across the country. Thanks so much, guys, hope you have a great weekend and a happy Mother’s Day.

[Image via screen grab from the White House.]

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Aaron Keller is an attorney licensed in two states. He holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. During law school, he completed legal residencies in the Office of the New Hampshire Attorney General and in a local prosecutor’s office. He was employed as a summer associate in the New Hampshire Department of Safety, which manages the state police, and further served as a summer law clerk for a New York trial judge. Before law school, Keller worked for television stations in New York and in the Midwest, mostly as an evening news anchor and investigative reporter. His original reporting on the Wisconsin murder of Teresa Halbach was years later featured in the Netflix film "Making A Murderer."