WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he did not know about the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Russians and his campaign staff including his son Don Jr, at which the Russians offered to provide damaging information about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
"I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr." Trump said in a Twitter post after a CNN report that his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen said Trump knew of the meeting in advance.
.....I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?). He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2018
CNN, citing unidentified sources with knowledge of the matter, said Cohen was willing to make that assertion to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether Trump's presidential campaign had worked with Russia to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, and for possible campaign law violations linked to a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, a person familiar with the investigation has told Reuters. The payment to Daniels, who says she had an
intimate relationship with Trump, was meant to buy her silence over the affair.
Cohen has not been charged with any crime.
Trump, who has said in the past he did not know about the meeting in advance, suggested Cohen was implicating Trump in exchange for possible immunity on unrelated charges related to his businesses.
"Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam," Trump speculated on Twitter, without supporting his claim.
The Republican president has been infuriated by the suggestion he might owe his White House victory to Russia, and has focused on the rebutting the collusion question rather than on concerns about the U.S. intelligence community's findings that Moscow intervened on his behalf.
In a series of angry Tweets on Friday morning, he again denied any collusion with Moscow and denounced the Mueller probe as a witch hunt. Russia has denied meddling in the election.
Cohen did not immediately return a request for comment on Trump's tweet.
The role Cohen, a longtime personal confidant of Trump, might play in the Mueller probe is unknown. On Wednesday, Trump expressed disbelief that Cohen would have taped conversations with him, a day after an audio recording of a conversation between the two men was aired on U.S. television.
A lawyer for Cohen, Lanny Davis, released the recording of Trump and Cohen discussing paying for the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal's story about an alleged affair with Trump and it aired on CNN on Tuesday night.
Before the election, Trump's campaign denied any knowledge of payment to McDougal, but the taped conversation could undermine those denials.