Among the details in a document released by Stormy Daniels’s lawyer Michael Avenatti on Tuesday evening is the description of a series of $50,000 payments by AT&T to Essential Consultants, a shell company owned by Michael Cohen.
And although Avenatti would not detail the source of the information in the dossier in an interview with my colleague Natasha Bertrand, AT&T confirmed that it contracted with the company in a statement, and The New York Times says it reviewed documents that support Avenatti’s claims. “Essential Consulting [sic] was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration,” AT&T said. “They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017.”
Essential Consultants was incorporated in Delaware on October 17, 2016, 10 days after the Access Hollywood tape went public and a couple weeks before the election. It has no other known employees or directors. On October 27, Avenatti alleges, Essential Consultants wired $130,000 to a lawyer working for Stormy Daniels. On November 8, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.
Some months later, the AT&T contract with Essential Consultants began, although Avenatti’s litany of accusations only note four $50,000 payments, three in late 2017 and one in early 2018. This timeline raises a question of whether there could have been more payments, spanning the period from early 2017 to 2018.