Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney and personal fixer, is prepared to testify that President Trump knew of a controversial meeting between his son Donald Trump Jr. and representatives of the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election, before the meeting took place. The story was first reported by CNN.
Cohen was not present for the meeting, but was present, along with several others when then-candidate Trump was informed of the meeting offer by the Russians. It was Trump himself, according to Cohen, who gave the go-ahead for the meeting.
The sources said Cohen does not have evidence of the claims but that he is prepared to attest to them to special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller has been investigating the role Russia played in the presidential election for over a year.
In June 2016 a friend of the Trump family emailed the President’s son requesting a meeting to present incriminating evidence the Russian government had on Hillary Clinton. The information was a “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” the friend wrote, and might be helpful to Donald Trump’s campaign.
Trump Jr. responded favorably. “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” he wrote. The meeting would take place on June 9, 2016.
On that day a Russian lawyer by the name of Natalia Veselnitskaya and several other individuals with ties to the Russian government met with Trump Jr. in Trump Tower in New York City. Also in attendance were the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump Campaign manager at the time Paul Manafort.
Veselnitskaya talked about a popular Russian adoption program with the U.S. that had been cancelled. She did not produce incriminating evidence about Hillary Clinton, much to the consternation of Trump campaign brass. But the Trump team’s willingness to take the meeting, critics say, points to a willingness to accept foreign assistance in the presidential campaign.
In July 2017 as President Trump and his senior advisers were returning from a G-20 meeting in Germany, they were approached by The New York Times with questions about the meeting and the reasons it was set up. The Trump team maintained the meeting was about adoption but subsequent publication of emails between Trump Jr. and the family friend would reveal the true nature of the meeting.
Throughout the denials however, the White House remained consistent that the President had no knowledge of the meeting and only became aware of it as The Times was breaking the story.
The President still denies knowledge of the meeting prior to its taking place.
“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!” the President wrote on Twitter.
A business partner of Michael Cohen’s, known in New York City as the “Taxi King,” recently pleaded guilty to tax evasion in New York State Court and agreed to cooperate with investigators as a potential witness. The case is believed to have implications for Cohen.
The FBI raided Cohen offices and homes earlier this year. Agents reportedly seized tax documents, business records and correspondence between Cohen and his clients, including President Trump.
It has also been revealed that Cohen routinely recorded conversations he had with his clients, including President Trump. Cohen has recently indicated a willingness to cooperate with investigators in the ongoing probe.