Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney, said Donald Trump knew in advance about a meeting during the 2016 campaign in which Russians were expected to offer negative information about his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, according to a report by CNN.
Citing sources with knowledge of Cohen’s claims, CNN said the attorney is willing to share that information with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. The sources said Cohen does not have any evidence, including tapes, to back up his claims.
NBC News also reported that Cohen was willing to speak to Meuller about his claims, citing its own “knowledgeable source” on Thursday night.
The meeting occurred at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort. They met with a lawyer linked to the Kremlin and a Russian businessman who initially had offered to disclose dirt on Clinton.
Cohen claims he was in the room when Trump was told about that offer by Trump Jr., CNN said.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer and lead attorney on issues related to the Russia inquiry, said Thursday on CNN that Cohen was “just not credible.” He alluded that Cohen was “bitter” about not landing a job in the Trump administration and was “very, very jealous” of the president’s children.
“He’s been lying all week, or two weeks, he’s been lying for years,” Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo shortly after the report was published. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s just not credible. I wouldn’t accept him as a witness as a prosecutor.”
He continued to say he was “not worried” about Cohen’s claims “at all.”
Trump has repeatedly denied having any knowledge about the meeting and told The New York Times in July 2017 that he “didn’t know anything” about it. The Times also reported in June that Trump personally dictated a misleading statement about the purpose of the meeting, even after his aides repeatedly denied that he did so.
The meeting took place after a British publicist, Rob Goldstone, emailed Trump Jr. offering “very high level and sensitive” material linked to Russia that would be damaging to Clinton’s presidential campaign. Trump Jr. responded that if the information was good, “I love it,” and the two began to arrange the rendezvous.
The Russian lawyer at the meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, has close ties to senior government officials at the Kremlin, The Associated Press reported earlier on Thursday. AP sifted through hundreds of documents that show Veselnitskaya served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and worked with the staff of a senior official at the country’s Interior Ministry.
She has denied acting on behalf of Russian leadership during the meeting at Trump Tower, saying she operates “independently of any governmental bodies.” But Veselnitskaya said in April that she had been “actively communicating” with the Russian prosecutor general since 2013.
It’s the latest fracture between Cohen and his longtime client. Earlier this week, Cohen’s legal team released a secretly recorded conversation made in September 2016 in which the attorney and Trump discuss a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. She has alleged that she had a months-long affair with Trump in 2006.
Doha Madani contributed reporting