Cohen Ready to Say Trump Knew of Son's 2016 Russia Contact: CNN

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney is prepared to tell federal investigators that the president knew in advance about a June 2016 meeting where Russians were expected to offer damaging information about Hillary Clinton, CNN reported, citing unnamed sources.

Such testimony by Michael Cohen, a longtime fixer for Trump, would contradict the testimony and public denials of the president, his son, and other campaign officials who have repeatedly claimed the president was not aware of the Trump Tower meeting until more than a year later.

Cohen is ready to testify that he was present when the president was informed of an offer of material detrimental to Clinton ahead of the meeting, CNN said Thursday, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The meeting between members of the president’s inner circle and a Russian lawyer with links to the Kremlin has been a central focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The meeting was attended by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., after organizers told him they had dirt on Clinton and wanted to give it to him as part of the Russian government’s effort to help his father win the election.

Other attendees included Paul Manafort, then chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign; Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and several Russians, including the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and their representatives.

The president’s son has acknowledged that he was interested in what material might be offered, but said the meeting ultimately did not amount to anything.

Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Donald Trump Jr., said the president’s son stands by previous denials of his father’s knowledge of the meeting.

“Donald Trump Jr. has been professional and responsible throughout the Mueller and congressional investigations. We are very confident of the accuracy and reliability of the information that has been provided by Mr. Trump Jr., and on his behalf,” Futerfas said in a statement.

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, said that the elder Trump didn’t know about his son’s meeting with the Russian lawyer at the time.

“I expected something like this from Cohen,” Giuliani said Thursday on CNN. “I mean, he’s been lying all week. He’s been lying for years.”

Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, said in a statement to MSNBC “I have to wonder why the Trump people would put that out. It was not from us.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Cohen has previously testified before two Congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the campaign. But an assertion that Trump had advance knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting wasn’t included in separate reports issued by Republican or Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee. CNN, citing sources, reported Cohen didn’t have proof that the president had foreknowledge of the meeting.

Revelations of Cohen’s possible testimony come just days after a 2016 recording of a conversation between Trump and Cohen appeared to show the president was informed of a payment designed to prevent news of an alleged affair with a Playboy model from coming to light. Spokespeople for Trump had previously denied the affair and knowledge of a scheme to have American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, pay her for her story.

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