Chuck Ross, DCNF
- Michael Cohen reportedly claims that Donald Trump was aware of the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower before it occurred.
- That could pose a problem for Trump and his son, Don Jr., since both have denied that the president knew about the meeting.
- But Cohen has given mixed signals on the matter. During the fallout from the meeting last year, Cohen praised Don Jr. for being “open, honest and transparent.”
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen praised Donald Trump Jr. last year for being “open, honest and transparent” about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a group of Russians.
Cohen made the statement in a July 11, 2017 tweet posted just after Trump Jr. appeared on Fox News with Sean Hannity to discuss fallout from the Trump Tower meeting revelation.
In the interview, Trump Jr. said that his father was not aware of the Trump Tower meeting, which occurred on June 9, 2916.
“It was such a nothing, there was nothing to tell,” Trump Jr. told Hannity.
“So proud of @DonaldTrumpJr for being open, honest and transparent to the American people. This nonsense needs to stop!” Cohen tweeted. It is not clear if he published the tweet in response to the Hannity interview or Trump Jr.’s decision earlier in the day to release his email correspondence setting up the meeting.
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) July 12, 2017
Cohen’s year-old comment took on new significance on Thursday after CNN reported that he is willing to tell the special counsel’s office that Trump knew in advance about the Trump Tower meeting.
Such a statement, if accurate, would contradict Trump and Trump Jr.’s denials about whether the president was aware of the meeting before it occurred.
Trump has said multiple times that he did not learn of the meeting until The New York Times began asking questions about it last July. And in addition to his public denials, Trump Jr. has testified to Congress that his father did not know about the meeting.
“He wasn’t aware of it,” Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a Sept. 7, 2017 interview when asked if his father knew about the meeting before it occurred. “And, frankly, by the time anyone was aware of it, which was summer of this year, as I stated earlier, I wouldn’t have wanted to get him involved in it because it had nothing to do with him.”
According to CNN, Cohen claims he was present when Trump Jr. informed his father about a meeting with Russians who were offering to provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Sources told the network that Cohen claims Trump approved of the meeting. It is not clear from the report if Cohen claims that Trump Jr. mentioned the details of what the Russians were offering to provide the campaign.
CNN’s sources said that Cohen does not have an audio recording of the meeting but that he is willing to testify to Mueller.
Trumpworld blasted Cohen following Thursday’s report.
“He’s been lying all week, he’s been lying for years.” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., said his client “has been professional and responsible throughout the Mueller and Congressional investigations.”
“We are very confident of the accuracy and reliability of the information that has been provided by Mr. Trump, Jr., and on his behalf.”
Cohen is currently under investigation in New York over payments he made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Cohen, who reportedly feels betrayed by Trump amid his legal problems, recently hired longtime Clinton insider Lanny Davis to his legal team.
On Wednesday, Davis provided CNN with an audio recording that Cohen made of a conversation he had with Trump in September 2016. Cohen can be heard discussing setting up a shell company to make payments to National Enquirer’s parent company, AMI. AMI paid $150,000 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who also claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006.
Of all of the Trump campaign’s encounters with Russians, the Trump Tower meeting has provided the most ammunition for Democrats who believe that the campaign colluded with the Russian government to help Trump win the election.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, asserted on Thursday that if Trump knew about the meeting before it occurred, “the conspiracy case may have just gotten stronger.”
If allegation Trump ok’d June 9 meeting is true, it means he not only publicly appealed to Russia for help, but privately approved receiving it.
As forecast to Papadopoulos, that help would come in the release of Clinton emails. The conspiracy case may have just gotten stronger. https://t.co/7GULzPqkk4
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 27, 2018
Both of the Trumps have defended Trump Jr’s. decision to take the meeting, saying that it would have been political malpractice to turn down an offer of opposition research on Clinton. Trump critics claim that the Trump team should have reported the Russian outreach to the FBI.
Trump Jr. accepted the meeting after a music publicist named Rob Goldstone contacted him on June 3, 2016 to say that a Russian government attorney wanted to provide information about Hillary Clinton.
“If it is what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. replied.
Trump Jr. invited his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to the meeting. Goldstone accompanied the Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, her translator, Anatoli Samochornov, a Russian-American lobbyist named Rinat Akhmetshin, and a businessman named Ike Kaveladze.
Most of the meeting attendees — eight in total — have described the 20 minute meeting as a dud. The only information that Veselnitskaya had on Clinton was an allegation that her campaign may have received illegal campaign donations. Veselnistkaya’s true focus, meeting participants have claimed, was the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 sanctions law opposed by the Kremlin.
Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin were working together at the time on a lobbying campaign to smear the main proponent of the law, a London-based banker named Bill Browder.
In perhaps the strangest twist of the Trump Tower saga, Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin worked closely on the anti-Browder project with Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the infamous Steele dossier, which alleges that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.
The Fusion GPS link has raised questions about whether what occurred in the Trump Tower meeting is described in the dossier, which was written by former British spy Christopher Steele.
But Simpson has denied knowing about the Trump Tower meeting until it was reported in the news. Akhmetshin has acknowledged telling at least two reporters about the Trump Tower meeting shortly after it occurred. The reporters did not publish stories about the meeting.
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