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Public Citizen files ethics complaints against Trump lawyer Michael Cohen

The legal troubles confronting President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen are growing.The watchdog group Public Citizen on Thursday filed complaints with Congress and the Justice Department, saying the New York attorney broke federal ethics and lobbying laws by failing to register as a lobbyist while collecting big sums from companies with business before the Trump administration.

Swiss-based drug maker Novartis and telecom giant AT&T this week acknowledged making payments to a Cohen shell company as they sought to better understand the President Trump and his administration.Novartis paid Cohen’s firm $1.2 million over a one-year period; AT&T’s payment topped $500,000. Cohen’s arrangement came as the Trump administration considered AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner. The Washington Post on Thursday reported it had obtained Internal documents, showing Cohen’s agreement with AT&T specifically said Cohen would provide advice on the $85 billion merger, along with a wide range of other issues.

“Cohen’s solicitations are based on the access he could provide to Trump and administration officials for paying clients,” Craig Holman of Public Citizen said in a statement.”That sounds a lot like lobbying.”In the end, the Trump administration sided against AT&T, and Trump’s Justice Department is suing to block the deal.Neither Cohen nor his attorney Steve Ryan immediately responded to requests for comment.Asked Thursday whether Trump was concerned about people selling access to the president, White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters: “The president makes up his own mind about policy matters and everything else in between.”In its complaints, Public Citizen also argues that Cohen may have violated a federal law requiring representatives of foreign interests to register with the Justice Department. Another Cohen client, Korean Aerospace Industries, paid his firm $150,000 in November for legal advice on accounting standards, the company said.

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