Lanny Davis, attorney for Michael Cohen, denied Thursday that he changed his story about a 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which involved Russians and members of the Trump campaign, to protect his client from perjury charges.
He made the comments on ABC’s “The View.”
If true, Davis’s denial seems to further undermine CNN’s July reporting on the meeting and the company’s subsequent defense of that reporting. (RELATED: CNN Is Standing By Its Trump Tower Story Despite Contradictions)
On July 27, 2018, CNN reported that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen claimed he was present in a meeting when the president learned about and approved of the Trump Tower meeting before it occurred. Cohen was also allegedly ready to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Since that report, several developments made CNN’s report seem increasingly unlikely:
- Lanny Davis told CNN that Cohen “does not” have information that Trump knew about the meeting in advance
- Davis admitted that he was an anonymous source for CNN’s story, despite being unable to confirm its details
- Cohen already testified twice to Congress that he did not know about the meeting in advance, disputing the idea that he was present when Trump learned about it
The third bullet point became relevant again Thursday with Davis’ interview on “The View.”
North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner noted in late August that Cohen previously told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he did not know about the Trump Tower meeting until a year later.
After CNN’s report, the Senate intel leaders grew suspicious and went back to Cohen to see if he stood by his testimony. He said that he did.
Perhaps Cohen was claiming to be present when Trump learned of the Trump Tower meeting and wanted to tell Mueller as much — rendering CNN’s reporting accurate. But, Cohen then realized he could be charged with perjury if he contradicted his earlier claims to Congress.
CNN seemed to employ that defense when explaining why it was sticking by its initial report.
“The guilty plea put new focus on Cohen and the discrepancy over his accounts of the Trump Tower meeting,” CNN wrote on August 28. “After Cohen’s plea, Davis began to change his story.”
The New York Post explained, “CNN is standing by the story because it says it has at least one other source for it, and because it suspects Davis changed his story only because Cohen could face perjury charges.”
However, Davis’ newest comments on “The View” — if truthful — debunk that line of reasoning.
“Did you change your story on whether President Trump knew about the meeting because you were protecting Michael Cohen from perjuring himself?” cohost Abby Huntsman asked Davis.
“No,” Davis replied. “I was telling the truth that I wasn’t certain, and I said I should have been more clear to the reporters.”
CNN also hinted strongly that Cohen was one of the original sources for its story, writing, “Cohen, unlike Davis, has not publicly addressed what he might have said to friends, associates or reporters about these matters.”
Davis denied on Thursday that Cohen ever claimed to know anything about the Trump Tower meeting to him. He told cohost Joy Behar that Cohen “was not sure with me” regarding whether or not Trump knew about the meeting in advance.