President Donald Trump, in a series of wild tweets on Friday morning, disputed claims by his former “fixer” attorney Michael Cohen that then-candidate Trump was aware of a meeting involving his son and a Russian lawyer during the presidential election campaign in 2016.
The meeting, which also included Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was allegedly conducted in order to attain “dirt” on Trump’s rival, Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton. A Russian lawyer with strong ties to the Kremlin, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had emailed the campaign hoping to arrange the meeting.
Up until this week, the president had denied knowing about the meeting, and there was no evidence to suggest that he did know (other than his habit to constantly tell lies). Now, with Cohen possibly coming forward and offering evidence to the contrary, it seems that Trump is in a heap of trouble, as the investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia now assuredly includes his own alleged involvement.
Also revealed earlier this week was that Veselnitskaya was more involved with her government than previously perceived. As it turns out, Veselnitskaya worked closely with Russian government lawyers, at times serving as a ghostwriter for them, and received help from Interior Ministry personnel on a case she was working on.
Trump continued to deny the allegations raised by Cohen in a series of three tweets on Friday morning, suggesting that Cohen’s lawyer’s connections to Clinton, and his own legal troubles, fueled the president’s former legal counsel to flip.
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...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2018
....,the only Collusion with Russia was with the Democrats, so now they are looking at my Tweets (along with 53 million other people) - the rigged Witch Hunt continues! How stupid and unfair to our Country....And so the Fake News doesn’t waste my time with dumb questions, NO,....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2018
.....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
“I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.,” Trump wrote. “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!”
Alleging that special counsel Robert Mueller “obviously cannot find Collusion,” a contention that he has no basis for making, Trump went on to deny knowing about the Russia meeting at Trump Tower, and to attack his former lawyer personally.
The president’s responses, and his team’s overall responses to Cohen’s revelations, are somewhat laughable, as they rely on discrediting an attorney he had by his side for years. On Thursday evening, Trump’s current attorney Rudy Giuliani called Cohen a “pathological liar,” bringing up questions of why, if they knew this about him, Trump kept him as a lawyer for so long.
The candle is burning at both ends for Trump — at one end, the meeting itself, which could be seen as somewhat suspicious previously, now requires greater scrutiny and examination; and on the other end, these new revelations show that Trump was aware of the meeting taking place, before it happened, negating previous claims by the administration and his campaign that he was in the dark about it.
What’s more concerning for Trump, however, even more concerning than the information that has just been made public, is that so much more is still unknown to us, yet probably very well-known to investigators. The details of Cohen’s recent admission on his former client’s behalf is damaging on its own — when it’s corroborated with whatever information Mueller has that isn’t yet public knowledge, it might mean Trump could face indictment.
That could also mean that Congress, if it gets its act together and actually decides to stand up to Trump, could issue articles of impeachment — especially if more is revealed about his possible ties to Russia and attempts to work with them in order to win the 2016 election.
It’s now more important than ever that Congress protect the special counsel’s ongoing work, and ensure that efforts to disrupt any aspects related to that work be thwarted if no just cause warrants it to end. The American people deserve to know: does their president have their interests at heart, or are his allegiances compromised by a foreign power?
President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen claims the president knew in advance that his campaign’s senior officials planned to hold a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in the Trump Tower in 2016, according to CNN.
The June 2016 meeting was arranged after a publicist, in no uncertain terms, told Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. that a senior Russian official will provide them with dirt on former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and it was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump Jr. reportedly said “if it's what you say, I love it," and arranged the meeting. There, he was joined by his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. There were also four Russians in the room, including a Kremlin-linked lawyer, a businessman with ties to an oligarch and a lobbyist with long-standing KGB connections.
Cohen also alleged he, along with several other people from the Trump campaign, were present when the then Republican presidential candidate greenlighted the meeting with the Russians, according to sources. However, the sources claim the former Trump lawyer does not have concrete evidence, like audio or video tapes of the meeting, to substantiate his claims. Nevertheless, Cohen has asserted he is willing to testify to his account.
Cohen’s surprising new assertion is in direct contradiction to repeated denials of the president, Donald Trump Jr., Trump lawyers and his administration officials, who said Trump was not aware of the tower meeting until he was questioned about it by The New York Times in July 2017.
After news of the meeting broke in July 2017, the Trump team tried to do damage control by offering mixed-up stories and misleading explanations. However, they remained steadfast in their assertion that Trump had no knowledge of the meeting in advance, did not learn about it immediately after the fact and only learned of it one year later.
His denials were also echoed by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and attorney Jay Sekulow. However, the biggest repudiation came when Trump Jr. testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year.
“He wasn't aware of it,” Trump Jr. told the lawmakers. “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.”
Cohen reportedly did not say anything about Trump having advance knowledge of the meeting when he privately testified last year during two Congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, which raises questions whether he should be charged with lying to the committee.
Trump and his lawyers refute the claim, however, last year, it was reported that the president crafted a false story about Russian adoption on Air Force One for his son.
“It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand,” Trump Jr.’s statement read.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, said Cohen was a “pathological liar.”
“He's been lying all week, he's been lying for years,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “I don't see how he's got any credibility.”
Giuliani also added Cohen is “the kind of witness that can really destroy your whole case.”
“Donald Trump Jr. has been professional and responsible throughout the Mueller and Congressional investigations,” said Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Trump Jr. “We are very confident of the accuracy and reliability of the information that has been provided by Mr. Trump, Jr., and on his behalf.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s opponents have always doubted these claims particularly in light of a series of phone called made by Trump Jr. to a blocked phone number in the days ahead and after the meeting. Then two days before the meeting, Trump also triumphantly announced he planned to give a big speech about Clinton’s scandals. Later, Trump Jr. said he did not get any damaging information about the Democratic presidential candidate at the meeting and Trump’s much-touted speech never came.
There has been increased tension between the president and Cohen for the past few months, especially after FBI agents raided Cohen’s home and office in April and seized a large number of documents and recording related to his work with Trump and his own business.
The raid was part of an investigation by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office to determine whether Cohen committed bank or wire fraud and campaign finance violations while working for the president. The lawyer had been at the center of controversy surrounding a payment to adult star Stormy Daniels, who has alleged that she had sex once in 2006 with Trump and was paid money shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about it.
Cohen allegedly grew frustrated when Trump failed to publicly defend him and the administration distanced himself from him after the raid. In retaliation, Cohen has been increasingly vocal about his criticism of Trump and has spoken out on many of his policies, including the “zero tolerance” immigrant family separation policy.
According to sources, Cohen hopes his claims about the Russian-linked Trump Tower meeting will help alleviate his legal troubles. He is currently under the eye of federal prosecutors in Manhattan after Mueller forwarded Cohen’s case to them.
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