Did Trump know his son met Russians to get dirt? President’s ex-lawyer is reportedly willing to tell Mueller probe he did
Such testimony by Michael Cohen, a long-time fixer for Trump, would contradict the testimony and public denials of the president, his son, and other campaign officials
Donald Trump’s long-time personal lawyer has claimed the US president knew in advance of a June 2016 meeting in which Russians were expected to offer “dirt” on election rival Hillary Clinton, according to US media reports.
The assertion by Michael Cohen, reported by both CNN and NBC News, contradicts Trump’s insistence that he was unaware of the meeting at Trump Tower in New York, the subject of huge controversy once it came to light a year later.
Cohen is prepared to make a statement to Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election, the networks said.
Trump’s son Don Jnr, son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort met at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, having been told she was offering sensitive information about Clinton from the Russian government.
.....I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?). He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2018
Trump, his son, his lawyers and other officials have repeatedly claimed the future president did not know about the meeting until details of it were revealed in July last year.
On Friday, Trump issued a series of tweets dismissing the Russia probe and prior knowledge of Donald Jnr’s meeting.
“And so the Fake News doesn’t waste my time with dumb questions, NO,.... I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don Jnr Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?),” Trump wrote.
At the time the news broke, the president told reporters on Air Force One that he “only heard about it two or three days ago”.
On Thursday, CNN, citing an unnamed source, reported that Cohen said he was present when Don Jnr told his father about the Russians’ offer to meet and that Trump approved it. NBC said it had independently verified the report.
Trump’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, dismissed Cohen as lacking credibility.
“It would have to be people in the room with the president that can corroborate Cohen, which there won’t be because it didn’t happen,” he told CNN. “And then it becomes a credibility contest between two or three witnesses who say one thing and Cohen who says another … I expected something like this from Cohen, I mean, he’s been lying all week. He’s been lying for years.”
What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before? Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things? I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped - can this be so? Too bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2018
Once unswervingly loyal to Trump, Cohen has fallen out with the president in recent months. On Tuesday, CNN broadcast a taped conversation between him and Trump discussing how to hush up allegations that Trump had an affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal in 2006.
Cohen is under federal investigation in New York for his business dealings. The leaked tape fuelled speculation over whether he is considering a cooperation deal with prosecutors. Cohen does not have an audio recording to back his claim about the Trump Tower meeting, the reports said.
The June 2016 meeting was brokered by a British music promoter, Rob Goldstone, who contacted Trump Jnr saying he had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father”.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information,” he said, “but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump … I can also send this info to your father.”
Trump Jnr responded “I love it” when first offered this political “dirt” on Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, but has since contended that no meaningful information was offered and the meeting focused mostly on the issue of adoptions of Russian children.
Associated Press reported on Thursday that Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met Trump Jnr, “worked more closely with senior Russian government officials than she previously let on”.
Mueller has indicted 31 individuals, including 12 Russian intelligence agents, for hacking computer networks of the Democrats. Trump has repeatedly denounced the investigation as a “rigged witch-hunt”.