WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said the president did not know beforehand about a 2016 meeting between his campaign and Russians, as the president’s former attorney is reportedly ready to tell prosecutors.
Giuliani said those who were allegedly present when Trump learned about the meeting also deny he knew about it. The meeting has become a central focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether anyone within Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in meddling in the last U.S. presidential election.
“It’s just flat-out untrue,” Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, said on “Fox News Sunday” about the claims.
CNN reported on Thursday that Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is prepared to tell federal investigators that then-candidate Trump knew and approved of the Trump Tower meeting where a Russian lawyer with links to the Kremlin was expected to deliver damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The meeting was attended by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Giuliani said Cohen has claimed those present when Trump was informed about the meeting included Trump Jr., Kushner and others.
“It seems to me his default position is to lie,” Giuliani said of Cohen, who back in May he characterized as an “honest, honorable lawyer.”
In a separate interview on the CBS show “Face the Nation,” Giuliani said he’s aware of “something like 183 unique conversations on tape” from Cohen. Trump is on one tape discussing a possible payment to Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Trump, and there are another “11 or 12 others” in which Trump is discussed, Giuliani said. There an “untold number” of other tapes that have “no relation” to Trump, he said.
Still, such testimony by Cohen, a longtime fixer for the former property developer and reality-show celebrity, would contradict the testimony and public denials of the president, his son, and other campaign officials who’ve repeatedly said the president wasn’t aware of the Trump Tower meeting until more than a year later.
Trump on Friday reiterated that position.
“I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.,” the president tweeted. “Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam.”
Trump faces potential legal and political danger if it’s proven he knew in advance about the meeting, according to former federal prosecutors. Trump Jr. could face charges of lying to Congress if Cohen’s allegation is proven true, as he testified under oath that his father didn’t know about the meeting.
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said that while it’s possible Trump could have been told about the meeting after the fact, he’s siding with the president’s comments that he didn’t know beforehand.
“I take the president at his word that he did not know about the meeting,” Scaramucci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
The CNN report about the Trump Tower meeting followed the airing of an audio recording between Trump and Cohen that appeared to show that Trump was informed of a payment aimed at covering up an alleged affair with McDougal, a former Playboy model. The recording was one of 12 seized by federal agents in raids on Cohen’s office, residence and a hotel room.
Giuliani said the revelation of those tapes was “a very good development for us” and showed Trump did nothing wrong.
Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, declined comment.
Davis contends that the audio recording, which was made in September 2016 by Cohen and released on July 24 by CNN, captures the future president and Cohen talking about buying the rights to McDougal’s story sold to the National Enquirer, which never published it.