AT&T is the latest to get roped into special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
The Dallas telecom giant disclosed on Wednesday that it was contacted by the special counsel office regarding Michael Cohen, the longtime personal lawyer of President Donald Trump.
"When we were contacted by the Special Counsel's office regarding Michael Cohen, we cooperated fully, providing all information requested in November and December of 2017," said an AT&T spokeswoman in an e-mail. "A few weeks later, our consulting contract with Cohen expired at the end of the year. Since then, we have received no additional questions from the Special Counsel's office and consider the matter closed."
This comes amid a CNBC report that AT&T may have paid Essential Consultants, the Delaware firm Cohen had created ahead of the 2016 presidential election, up to $600,000 as part of a consulting contract, three times the amount from a report that said to Essential. The firm was reportedly used to pay $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to keep quiet about an affair she says she had with then-candidate Trump. Cohen is not only Trump's lawyer, he's also reportedly a close confidant of the president.
AT&T confirmed the payments to CNET and other news outlets Tuesday evening, but did not specify the amount. It also denied that Essential did any legal or lobbying work for the company.
"Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration," a spokeswoman said in an email Tuesday.
News of payments AT&T made to Cohen's firm surfaced late Tuesday when Michael Avenatti, who is representing Daniels, shared on Twitter an executive summary of payments made to an account that was used to pay Daniels.
According to the document, AT&T made four payments of $50,000 each between Oct. 3 of last year and Jan. 3 to Essential Consultants.
An unnamed source told CNBC the contract AT&T had with Cohen may have included payments up to $600,000. The source also said the payments were for "actual work done," adding: "And it wasn't to pay for access to the president."
"It was to pay for an understanding of the inner workings of Trump, his thought process, how he likes to operate, how he likes to make decisions, how he processes information," the source said, according to CNBC.
CNBC also posted a memo AT&T sent to employees Wednesday explaining the payments. In it the company reiterates that Cohen was one of several consultants the company hired to "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 at the FCC, corporate tax reform and antitrust enforcement."
The company went on to explain that, "Companies often hire consultants for these purposes, especially at the beginning of a new presidential administration, and we have done so in previous administrations, as well."
The memo said Cohen did no legal or lobbying work for the company and that the contract ended in December 2017. It said the company did not become aware of the "controversy surrounding Cohen" until January 2018 when it was reported in the news.
AT&T confirmed the authenticity of the memo, but did not comment further on the amount paid to Cohen's firm.
The revelation of AT&T's dealings with Cohen has raised eyebrows since the company is currently being sued by the US Justice Department to block its $85 billion merger with Time Warner.
AT&T argues that the deal is critical to enabling the company to compete against tech titans like Google and Netflix, and that the deal doesn't snuff out a competitor. The US government argues that combining a telecom giant, which owns wireless and wired Internet assets, with one of the premiere media properties in the world, would create too powerful a player in the media landscape.
The deal had been announced on Oct. 22, 2016, just weeks before the election. Trump, who has repeatedly called CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, "fake news," said when he was a candidate that he would try to block the deal.
The White House was unavailable for comment.
Update, 4:50 p.m. PT: To add AT&T has said that it was asked to cooperate in the special counsel investigation.