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Trump denies knowing of 2016 Trump Tower meeting ahead of time

In this photo taken on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks to
Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, seen here in a 2016 photo, met that summer at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. and others after an intermediary said she could offer “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. President Trump continues to deny he knew about the meeting in advance.
(Yury Martyanov / Associated Press)

President Trump denied early Friday that he knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, where his son Donald Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign chief Paul Manafort huddled with an attorney with Kremlin ties offering dirt on his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“NO,” Trump tweeted. “I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.”

The president was reacting to a report on CNN late Thursday that his former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, alleges that Trump was present when the scheduled meeting was discussed.

That meeting is at the center of the special counsel’s ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Russian officials and Trump’s campaign. Trump helped draft a statement last year that he didn’t know about the meeting, which falsely claimed the encounter was about Russian adoptions. The statement is believed to be part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s examination of whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.

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Trump, in his tweet Friday, attacked Cohen, who is now facing a separate criminal investigation in New York and is said to be seeking to make a deal with prosecutors and testify against the president.

“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 tweeted. “He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!”

Cohen, whose interests in New York’s taxi cab industry have come under scrutiny, signaled a break with his former boss weeks ago when he retained a new attorney, Lanny Davis, a Democrat who represented the Clintons in the 1990s. While his private recordings of Trump and others have been seized by investigators, he has not yet produced evidence to support his claim that Trump knew of the Trump Tower meeting.

The FBI months ago raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, including in search of documents related to a $130,000 payment the attorney facilitated before the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she had sex with Trump in 2006.

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Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney, trashed Cohen in a television interview Thursday night on CNN.

“I expected something like this from Cohen,” Giuliani said to CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “He’s been lying all week. He’s been lying for years.”

Two months ago, Giuliani had described Cohen, before he had signaled a willingness to cooperate with prosecutors, as “an honest, honorable” attorney.

Asked by Cuomo why Trump relied on Cohen’s services for so many years if he’d known him to have been a liar, Giuliani replied that the president appears to have been duped.

The latest from Washington »

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