Each of those companies has some kind of a financial interest that the executive branch has influence in (for example, the Justice Department has sued to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner). Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a press conference today that the payments “may well have been used to influence the president of the United States, using Michael Cohen and his shell company as a conduit.”
Some have suggested a connection between the AT&T payment and the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality in December 2017. The idea that there was some kind of a causal connection here is, at this time, pure speculation. And besides that, the Trump administration has also demonstrably acted against AT&T’s financial interests — for instance, by blocking the proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner.
The story is still developing and since so many companies are involved, it can be confusing. (The Washington Post has a helpful infographic here showing the flow of money, although at this rate it’s beginning to resemble the Mailroom Charlie meme).
We’ve broken down what we know about AT&T, net neutrality, and the Time Warner merger in this scandal. Even if you go full corkboard conspiracy, it’s hard to connect the dots into something damning.