Trump denies advance knowledge of Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer

President Trump on Friday disputed reported claims by his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who had offered political dirt on Hillary Clinton. On Thursday night, CNN reported Cohen is ready to testify to special counsel Robert Mueller that he witnessed Donald Trump Jr. — who arranged the meeting — tell his father about the upcoming sit-down, and that his father approved.

“So the Fake News doesn’t waste my time with dumb questions, NO, I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr,” the president tweeted. “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!”

Trump seemed to be referring to an ongoing FBI investigation into Cohen’s businesses, which include real estate holdings and an array of taxi companies.

While the FBI is probing Cohen’s personal finances, their interest in him is not entirely separate from Trump. The bureau’s investigation also encompasses Cohen’s role in payments to women who allegedly had affairs with Trump. Special counsel Robert Mueller is also examining Cohen’s work to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow as part of his probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Amid the mounting law enforcement interest in his work, Cohen recently retained Lanny Davis, who served as special White House counsel under former President Bill Clinton. Cohen’s choice of attorney and Davis’s recent spate of media appearances have raised speculation Trump’s former attorney is preparing to cooperate with Mueller. Davis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News.

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Richard Drew/AP, Evan Vucci/AP, Donald Trump via Twitter, Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
Michael Cohen, Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Richard Drew/AP, Evan Vucci/AP, Donald Trump via Twitter, Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Earlier this week, Davis gave CNN a recording of a conversation that was secretly taped by Cohen shortly before the 2016 presidential election. On the tape, Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing potential hush-money payments intended to squash former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story about an affair she allegedly had with Trump.

The recording is one of more than 100 seized by the FBI during a raid on Cohen’s office nearly four months ago, according to the Washington Post.

“What kind of a lawyer would tape a client?” Trump tweeted in response. The president also characterized the raid as a break-in and suggested Cohen’s actions were “perhaps illegal.” The raid was conducted via a warrant. In New York State, where Trump Tower is located, only one party has to consent for a legal recording of a discussion.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that Mueller is examining Trump’s tweets as part of his wide-ranging investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and Trump’s possible obstruction of the probe. According to the Times, Mueller is “examining whether the actions add up to attempts to obstruct the investigation by both intimidating witnesses and pressuring senior law enforcement officials to tamp down the inquiry.”

Trump lashed out at the news on Friday morning in a pair of tweets that preceded his Cohen missive.

“Arrived back in Washington last night from a very emotional reopening of a major U.S. Steel plant in Granite City, Illinois, only to be greeted with the ridiculous news that the highly conflicted Robert Mueller and his gang of 13 Angry Democrats obviously cannot find Collusion…” Trump wrote.

“[T]he only Collusion with Russia was with the Democrats, so now they are looking at my Tweets (along with 53 million other people),” he added. “The rigged Witch Hunt continues! How stupid and unfair to our Country.”

— With Hunter Walker contributing reporting from Washington


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