Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, second left, exits from Federal Court in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)

Trump Denies Claim He Knew in Advance of Meeting With Russians

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump denied a reported assertion by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen that the president knew beforehand about a 2016 meeting between his son Donald Jr. and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

That meeting attended by Trump Jr. and other campaign officials has become a central focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether anyone within Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in meddling in the last U.S. presidential election.

"Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?)," Trump said Friday on Twitter. "He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!"

The president is referring to Lanny Davis, a top aide to former President Bill Clinton, who is representing Cohen in a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors who are examining Cohen’s private business dealings, including $282,000 in unpaid New York taxes by six taxi medallion holding companies owned by Cohen or his family members. Cohen hasn’t been charged with a crime.

CNN reported that Cohen is prepared to tell federal investigators that the president knew ahead of time about a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower where a Russian lawyer with links to the Kremlin was expected to deliver the damaging information about Clinton. The meeting was attended by the president’s son as well as 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.

Such testimony by 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 said the president was not aware of the Trump Tower meeting until more than a year later.

The statement from Cohen came days after recordings were leaked of a 2016 conversation between him and Trump that appeared to show the president was aware of a payment made to prevent publication of articles about Playboy model Karen McDougal’s alleged affair with the president.

Asked July 23 if Trump still denied ever having had a relationship with McDougal, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded that "the president maintains he’s done nothing wrong," and referred questions to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

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