- In May, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said that if the president knew about the controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and campaign officials at that time, it might have later slipped his mind.
- On Thursday, CNN reported that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former longtime lawyer, was willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump did know about the meeting in advance and approved of it.
In May, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said if the president knew about the controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and campaign officials at that time it happened, it would make sense for it to have later slipped his mind.
Telling Business Insider that he “would be surprised” if the president did know at the time, Giuliani said, “Honestly, I would be surprised if he could remember.”
“I couldn’t remember,” Giuliani added. “I would say that. I couldn’t remember if that happened back then.”
The June 2016 meeting – attended by Donald Trump Jr., White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort – was presented as a chance for Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to provide the Trump team with what she said was damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
In his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was released shortly before Giuliani spoke with Business Insider, Trump Jr. said he could not remember whether he told his father about the meeting. He said he “didn’t think that listening to someone with information relevant to the fitness and character of a presidential candidate would be an issue.”
After the meeting was disclosed publicly last year, Trump Jr. initially said its purpose was to discuss Russian adoption policy. But the story began to shift in subsequent days, and Trump Jr. eventually released emails between him and Rob Goldstone, the British music publicist who helped coordinate the meeting with Veselnitskaya.
Veselnitskaya, according to all accounts of the meeting, did not provide useful information about Clinton.
Giuliani said at the time that he hadn’t looked at all of the documents and testimony. But he said he believes they are “all very consistent with” the idea that the Trump Tower gathering “was billed as a meeting where there might be some damaging information about Hillary” and “there turned out not to be.”
“It turned out to be a front for trying to get into a discussion of sanctions and it was all dismissed very quickly,” he said. “I would think if there was any confusion about who knew what and when, it comes down to the fact that this was in the middle of the campaign.”
Acknowledging he was heavily involved in Trump’s campaign then, Giuliani said he “could not have remembered something like that” meeting “because the Russian collusion thing only became a big thing after that.”
“I mean, I don’t know how many people came up to me on the street telling me they had damaging information about this or that,” he continued. “And then sometimes, you give them a number to call, and I don’t know if they followed it up or not.”
‘He’s lied all his life’
On Thursday, the meeting drew renewed attention. CNN reported that the president’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, who is under criminal investigation and recently released an audio tape he made in September 2016 in which he and Trump discuss buying the rights to the story of a former Playboy model, is willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump approved the June 2016 meeting beforehand.
That claim would contradict past denials from Trump.
Cohen, CNN’s sources said, alleges he was present along with others when Trump was informed of the Russians’ offer by Trump Jr. and that the president signed off on the idea to meet with them.
Soon after, Giuliani was on CNN bashing Cohen’s credibility.
“There’s nobody that I know that knows him who hasn’t warned me that if he’s backed up against a wall he’ll lie like crazy, because he’s lied all his life,” Giuliani said of Cohen.
CNN’s sources said Cohen does not have hard evidence, such as audio recordings, of what he’s alleging. Cohen last year testified to two congressional committees on Russian election interference and did not say that Trump had advance knowledge of the meeting, a source told CNN.
On Friday, Trump tweeted he “did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.”
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