On July 27, CNN reported that “sources with knowledge” of the issue told the outlet that Donald Trump’s embattled former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was willing to testify to the special counsel that his former client had prior knowledge about the infamous Trump Tower meeting involving a Russian lawyer. Despite that claim now being refuted by multiple reports, CNN says they “stand by” their reporting.
Here’s how CNN’s “bombshell” report begins:
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, sources with knowledge tell CNN. Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller, the sources said.
Cohen’s claim would contradict repeated denials by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., their lawyers and other administration officials who have said that the President knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting until he was approached about it by The New York Times in July 2017.
Cohen alleges that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians’ offer by Trump Jr. By Cohen’s account, Trump approved going ahead with the meeting with the Russians, according to sources.
But on Sunday, The Washington Post presented strong evidence debunking CNN’s “sources with knowledge,” one of whom was reportedly Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis.
Davis “pull[ed] back” his claims that Cohen knew about the meeting in advance, the Post reports, and “expressed regret for not being clearer in assertions he made to reporters.”
In addition to Davis walking back the claim, Cohen himself testified before Congress that he had no idea if Trump knew about the much-scrutinized meeting, and Davis confirmed this fact to Axios Thursday:
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. … 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.
Despite the mounting evidence debunking CNN’s report, CNN’s Brian Stelter announced Sunday that CNN won’t retract the story. “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it,” he wrote.
CNN instantly suffered backlash online; a few examples, including from Donald Trump Jr. adviser Andrew Surabian: