President Donald Trump

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Trump Denies Advance Knowledge Of 2016 Trump Tower Meeting After Cohen Claims Otherwise

July 27, 2018 - 12:59 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) -- President Donald Trump has denied knowledge of a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving his son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer who claimed to have information on Hillary Clinton.

But that is not what Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, appears to be saying.

CNN reported Thursday that Cohen claims Trump knew in advance about the meeting. CNN cited anonymous sources saying Cohen was willing to share that information with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.

Cohen wasn't at the Trump Tower meeting and Cohen has not offered evidence to support the claim that Trump knew about the meeting. He does not have any recordings of the meeting, the person said.

A person familiar with the investigation confirmed the CNN report to The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

Trump tweeted, "NO," he "did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr."

Trump's team met with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, believing she had dirt on Clinton to share.

The Associated Press reported this week that Veselnitskaya worked more closely with senior Russian government officials than she previously let on, based on scores of emails, transcripts and legal documents that show her to be a well-connected attorney who served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel in a case involving a key client.

CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett said it is an open question whether the Mueller team is interested in talking with Cohen, but if it is, Cohen may make comments that contradict the statements of many people.

“The president has ritually denied knowledge of that meeting. Don Jr. has testified before Congress that his father didn’t know about the meeting. And it’s my reporting, and that of others, that when asked in general about this, Jared Kushner told Robert Mueller’s team the same thing – candidate Trump didn’t know anything about it. So if Cohen can prove this, this would be an interesting development,” Garrett said.

But Garrett emphasized that Cohen has said he cannot corroborate his claims of Trump knowing about the meeting, and also noted that the Mueller team has taken little interest in Cohen.

Trump himself shot back at Cohen, who was once so loyal to Trump that he said he'd take a bullet for his boss.

"Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam," Trump tweeted, adding: "(Taxi cabs maybe?). He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary's lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!"

“What is clear here is that a great gap has emerged between two former colleagues, friends, and fierce allies in the cause of Donald Trump. Whether that becomes legally dangerous for this president, we don’t know,” Garrett said. “But it’s quite clear that Cohen was in a position to know many things. And if he’s willing to spill on those things that he knows, that might put the president in some degree of jeopardy.”

Cohen, whose business dealings are being investigated by the FBI, has longtime dealings in the taxi industry and owns several medallions for New York City yellow cabs that allow them to pick up passengers on the street.

Cohen lawyer Guy Petrillo did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Cohen is under federal investigation in New York. The Justice Department has been investigating Cohen for months, raiding his home, office and hotel room in search of documents related to a $130,000 payment the attorney facilitated before the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who says she had sex with Trump in 2006.

In an interview with ABC News earlier this month, Cohen declined to answer if Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting in advance, citing the advice of his lawyers and the ongoing investigation.

Trump also on Friday dismissed as "ridiculous" a report that Muller's team is looking at Trump's tweets as they investigate possible collusion and obstruction of justice.

Trump complained that he had returned from a trip Midwest Thursday "only to be greeted with the ridiculous news" that Mueller and his team "cannot find Collusion... so now they are looking at my Tweets (along with 53 million other people)."

"(T)he rigged Witch Hunt continues!" he complained, adding: "How stupid and unfair to our Country."

Mueller is known to be scrutinizing Trump's tweets about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI director James Comey. A list of potential questions for Trump compiled by the president's legal team following conversations with investigators and released earlier this year made clear that Mueller is interested in some of Trump's tweets to the extent they raise obstruction of justice concerns.