Exclusive: Michael Cohen told Congress he doesn’t know if Trump knew about Russia meeting
Photo: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
Michael Cohen told lawmakers last year, in sworn testimony, that he didn't know whether then-candidate Donald Trump had foreknowledge of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, three sources with knowledge of Cohen's testimony tell Axios.
The big picture: And Cohen still doesn't know whether Trump knew about the infamous meeting, according to Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis. "Nothing has changed," he told Axios. News reports last month said Cohen was willing to assert to special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump did know about the meeting in advance.
- Why it matters: Questions about Cohen's testimony about the meeting may earn him a return trip to Capitol Hill.
What's new: This information about what Cohen told Congress about Trump — reported here for the first time — colors in the gaps of a joint statement Tuesday by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chair Sen. Mark Warner that got buried under the Cohen-Manafort news avalanche.
- "[W]e recently re-engaged with Mr. Cohen and his team following press reports that suggested he had advance knowledge of the June 2016 meeting between campaign officials and Russian lawyers at Trump Tower," the statement says.
- "Mr. Cohen had testified before the Committee that he was not aware of the meeting prior to its disclosure in the press last summer."
- "[T]he Committee inquired of Mr. Cohen's legal team as to whether Mr. Cohen stood by his testimony. They responded that he did stand by his testimony."
- "We hope ... Mr. Cohen’s plea agreement will not preclude his appearance before our Committee as needed for our ongoing investigation.”
The backstory: Last year, when questioned under oath by lawmakers on the House intelligence committee, Cohen not only said that he himself had no foreknowledge of the meeting but that he had no idea whether Trump did either, according to three sources with knowledge of his testimony.
- A source briefed on Cohen's testimony said he repeated that testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
I asked Davis why he didn't shoot down last month's stories.
- Davis, after a long day of TV hits defending Cohen, said: "It was painful. We were not the source, we could not confirm, and we could not correct. We had to be silent because of the sensitivity needed in the middle of a criminal investigation."
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