Chuck Ross, DCNF
- Lanny Davis says he does not know whether President Donald Trump had advance knowledge of Russian hacks of Democrats.
- Earlier in August, Davis said his client, Michael Cohen, had information linking Trump to the hacks.
- Now he claims that he merely had an “instinct” about what Trump knew.
Lanny Davis, an attorney for Michael Cohen, is backtracking from his stunning claim that President Donald Trump had advance knowledge of Russian hacking efforts.
During interviews on Tuesday and Wednesday, Davis laid out a grave allegation against Trump, saying that Cohen had information that would be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller, including about Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails.
In an interview Tuesday with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Davis said Cohen, a former lawyer for Trump, has “knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”
An in an interview Wednesday, Davis said his client “has information that would be of interest to Mr. Mueller in his probe of a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy, very similar to the indictment of the 12 Russians.”
Davis’s allegations, if accurate, would have had significant ramifications for the Mueller investigation, which is probing whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. Trump has denied knowing about hacks of Democrats’ emails before they occurred.
But Davis is now telling The Washington Post that his comments were merely based on “instinct” and not direct knowledge about what Cohen knows.
Asked by WaPo on Saturday whether he was certain that Trump knew about computer hacks before they occurred, Davis told the newspaper: “I am not sure. There’s a possibility that is the case. But I am not sure.”
“I was giving an instinct that [Cohen] might have something to say of interest to the special counsel.”
Davis, a close ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, also went on the record with WaPo to reveal that he was an anonymous source for a story asserting that Cohen is willing to Mueller that he witnessed Trump approving the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a group of Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
CNN reported July 27 that sources close to Cohen said he was present at a meeting where Donald Trump Jr. told his father about the Trump Tower meeting. Trump critics seized on the report, noting that Trump and Trump Jr. have both denied that the president knew about the meeting until it was reported in the press in July 2017.
But Davis said Wednesday night that the reporting of the story got “mixed up” and that Cohen does not know whether Trump had prior knowledge of the meeting.
“So Michael Cohen does not have information that President Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians beforehand or even after?” CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Davis.
“No, he does not,” Davis said.
According to WaPo, Davis was an anonymous source for a story that the newspaper ran in July confirming the CNN report. WaPo cited “a person familiar with Cohen’s thinking” who said that Cohen was interested in talking about Trump’s advance knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting with Mueller.
Though Davis spoke to WaPo for its initial story, the newspaper reported in that piece that “Davis declined to comment on the CNN report Thursday night.”
He told WaPo on Saturday: “I should have been more clear — including with you — that I could not independently confirm what happened. I regret my error.”
For its part, CNN has refused to address its faulty reporting. The network has not corrected its July 27 story, and its anchors have not addressed the flub on air.
Brian Stelter, the host of CNN’s media criticism show “Reliable Sources,” on Sunday interviewed Carl Bernstein, one of the reporters who wrote the article. The false story did not come up in their discussion. Instead, Stelter and Bernstein railed against Trump.
CNN did not respond to numerous requests for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation. But a spokeswoman for the network told WaPo on Saturday: “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it.”