The Department of Justice filed suit in November to block the deal, a case that is still pending.
But the back-and-forth has done two things: It has reignited a simmering controversy over possible political interference. It said it hired Cohen for consulting on potential real estate and other investments.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders corrected the record on Saturday saying, "The Department of Justice denied the merger". Giuliani's comments come after it was revealed AT&T's senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, Bob Quinn, was involved in agreeing to pay Cohen a reported $600,000 for what the company called "insights" into the Trump administration's positions on telecom regulation, tax reform and other issues.
These firm denials are much stronger than Giuliani's response when the story of Cohen's access peddling first broke earlier this week. "They didn't get the outcome they wished".
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted Friday that this was "major news" if Giuliani "didn't misspeak". He promised to provide advice on who the "key players" would be in Trump's administration and "their priorities and how they think", AT&T said in a fact sheet released Friday.
At the time that AT&T engaged Cohen, it wasn't aware of "the current controversy surrounding Cohen", AT&T said. Since he began representing Trump last month, multiple Giuliani gaffes have been in the headlines.
One correspondent took the bait and played her straight man, asking how Cohen's antics defines swamp draining.
There's no difference between Democrats and Republicans on this - although perhaps Democrats are more hypocritical about it with their endless sanctimonious lectures about the "corrosive influence of money in politics".
The arguments focused on how the proposed transaction would affect competition and consumers, though AT&T also has maintained that its merger was targeted for political reasons because Mr. Trump, a Republican, dislikes the coverage he has received from Time Warner's CNN.
"There is certainly plenty AT&T would like to get out of the Trump administration", noted the far-left media outlet Vox, adding that AT&T is now attempting to get a $85 billion merger with Time Warner approved through the Trump administration. However, he noted that hiring the president's lawyer could trigger ethical questions.
On Friday, Sen. Ron Wyden of OR, the rating Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, opened an inquiry into the association between Cohen and Novartis, alleging that on the time of the deal the corporate was negotiating with Medicare on the value of a pricey most cancers drug. By October, they thought the thumbs-up was right around the corner.
Stephenson's apology was also an extraordinary admission from a company that has long run one of Washington's largest and most sophisticated lobbying shops and donates millions of dollars each year to hundreds of candidates on both sides of the aisle.
Quinn's abrupt departure leaves almost 100 lobbyists working to complete an embattled merger with Time Warner, as well as to preserve gains the company made elsewhere, including in weakening federal oversight of its internet business.
Quinn started with the Bell system as an operator for Illinois Bell in 1980, before AT&T was broken up by the Justice Department in a landmark antitrust action four years later.
But White House aides like Kellyanne Conway insisted that the White House was not interfering.
The DOJ's antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, also publicly denied being influenced by Trump.
To that end, ethics experts said Friday that the wireless giant could be in the clear legally.