On Friday, President Donald Trump blasted the "fake news media" for not reporting on litigation revolving around AT&T's planned merger with Time Warner in a tweet that seemed to come out of nowhere. "There is no other way to say it - AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake".
And AT&T is scrambling to contain the fallout from being ensnared in the brewing scandal swirling around Michael Cohen and hush payment he gave to adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels.
AT&T and the pharmaceutical company Novartis, another Cohen client, said this week that they provided information about their dealings with Trump's lawyer to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III previous year. Among those who had deposited money were Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who paid Cohen's company $500,000, as well as drug company Novartis, and AT&T.
"To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate", Stephenson wrote in the memo.
Stephenson said he took responsibility for the Washington team's failure to vet Cohen.
"I haven't heard the president express any specific concerns about that", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said when asked about the revelations of the payments to Cohen. Companies routinely hire political consultants at the outset of new administrations, he said, and AT&T has done so in the past.
The company said it hired Cohen's firm among "several consultants to help us understand how the president and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company, including regulatory reform... tax reform and antitrust enforcement, specifically our Time Warner deal". According to a source, Muller has already interviewed, Ziad Ojakli, head of government affairs at Ford.
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Earlier this week, the telecommunications giant said it had co-operated when contacted late past year by investigators from the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel looking into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign.
"Why doesn't the Fake News Media state that the Trump Administration's Anti-Trust Division has been, and is, opposed to the AT&T purchase of Time Warner in a now ongoing Trial".
Cohen was the longtime attorney for Trump and the Trump Organization.
Attorneys for Cohen responded to Avenatti's report on Wednesday, saying it comprised "quite a few incorrect statements".
The brash 51-year-old New Yorker - who once boasted of his office in Trump Tower - is now in a fix of his own, under criminal investigation and accused of seeking to cash in on his access to the president.
"[Trump] did know about the general arrangement", Giuliani said.