World

Trump denies knowing about Trump Tower meeting with Russians beforehand

U.S. President Donald Trump has denied that he knew in advance about a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between a Russian lawyer, his eldest son and other aides that had been convened to hear dirt on his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

President's former lawyer Michael Cohen claims Trump knew ahead of time about meeting

President Donald Trump waves on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday. Trump reiterated on Twitter Friday morning that he was unaware of a 2016 meeting involving his son Donald Jr. and Russian officials before it took place. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

U.S. President Donald Trump denied Friday that he knew in advance about a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between a Russian lawyer, his eldest son and other aides that had been convened to hear dirt on his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

CNN reported Thursday Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, claims Trump knew in advance about the meeting. CNN cited unidentified sources saying Cohen was willing to share that information with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.

A person familiar with the meeting confirmed the CNN report to The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

Attorneys for Cohen didn't respond to requests for comment on CNN's report that Cohen claimed he was present when Trump Jr. told his father about the Tower meeting and the elder Trump approved it.

Cohen wasn't at the Trump Tower meeting, and he has not offered evidence to support the claim that Trump knew about the meeting. He does not have any recordings of the meeting, the person said.

Trump's team met with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, believing she had dirt on Clinton to share.

The Associated Press reported this week that Veselnitskaya worked more closely with senior Russian government officials than she previously let on, based on scores of emails, transcripts and legal documents that show her to be a well-connected attorney who served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel in a case involving a key client.

Trump, who in the past has denied knowing about the meeting before it happened, also shot back at Cohen, who was once so loyal to Trump that he said he'd take a bullet for his boss.

Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, walks along a sidewalk in New York on April 11, two days after his home, office and hotel room were raided by investigators. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

Cohen, whose business dealings are being investigated by the FBI, has longtime dealings in the taxi industry and owns several medallions for New York City yellow cabs that allow them to pick up passengers on the street.

Cohen lawyer Guy Petrillo did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Cohen is under federal investigation in New York. The Justice Department has been investigating Cohen for months, raiding his home, office and hotel room in search of documents related to a $130,000 US payment the attorney facilitated before the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who says she had sex with Trump in 2006.

In an interview with ABC News earlier this month, Cohen declined to answer if Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting in advance, citing the advice of his lawyers and the ongoing investigation.

Trump also on Friday dismissed as "ridiculous" a report that Mueller's team is looking at Trump's tweets as they investigate possible collusion and obstruction of justice.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, centre, departs surrounded by police and security after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington in June 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Trump complained that he had returned from a trip to the Midwest on Thursday "only to be greeted with the ridiculous news" that Mueller and his team "cannot find Collusion... so now they are looking at my Tweets (along with 53 million other people)."

"[T]he rigged Witch Hunt continues!" he complained, adding: "How stupid and unfair to our Country."

Mueller is known to be scrutinizing Trump's tweets about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI director James Comey. A list of potential questions for Trump compiled by the president's legal team following conversations with investigators and released earlier this year made clear that Mueller is interested in some of Trump's tweets to the extent they raise obstruction of justice concerns.

now