Politics

POTUS Not Hurt by New Cohen Trump Tower Meeting Claim

It's 'not a crime' if the president 'had prior knowledge' unless he lied under oath or to federal investigators, says Kim Strassel of The Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump wouldn’t “necessarily” be in “any legal jeopardy” if he knew about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting, as claimed Thursday by his former personal attorney, according to The Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel.

“I think the bigger point here is, is there a crime? And it obviously was not a crime for [Donald] Trump Jr. to meet with this Russian national and find out what she had to talk about,” Strassel said on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”

“It’s also not a crime for [the president] to have had prior knowledge of it, either,” she told Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

“The question is, has [Trump] ever under oath said that he didn’t know? Was he in any situation where he might be viewed as having lied to federal law enforcement? I’m not really sure that’s the case,” Strassel added. “So it’s another potentially bad headline if it’s true. But I’m not necessarily sure it’s any legal jeopardy.”

CNN reported Thursday evening that attorney Michael Cohen (pictured above) now claims that Trump “knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer him campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton,” citing “sources with knowledge.” Cohen was Trump’s personal attorney during the 2016 campaign.

Trump Jr., then-Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner were present at the meeting. Cohen now claims that Trump Jr. informed his father of the meeting before it took place and received his approval.

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Trump and his legal team claim the president knew nothing of the meeting until after it had taken place and until The New York Times approached him about the meeting in June 2017.

Cohen reportedly is eager to pass his own claims on to special counsel Robert Mueller. But when Cohen testified behind closed doors before two congressional committees about the Trump Tower meeting, he never mentioned whether Trump knew of the meeting in advance, CNN also reported.

“To be clear, these sources said Cohen does not have evidence, such as audio recordings, to corroborate his claim, but he is willing to attest to his account,” CNN clarified.

Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who is now a contributing editor for National Review and a Fox News contributor, told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that “the big problem” Cohen will face concerns his “prior testimony” and “prior interviews,” in which he “evidently did not cough this” information up.

“I’ve always thought that if Mueller believed that Cohen was somehow the key to proving a collusion case against Trump, there’s no way he lets that case walk to the Southern District of New York,” McCarthy said, referencing Mueller’s referral to the district that led the FBI to raid Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room in April.

Cohen now faces federal scrutiny over potential bank fraud activities and campaign finance violations regarding a payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had an affair with Trump.

Related: ‘Embarrassing,’ but Trump-Cohen Tape Talk Not ‘Illegal,’ Priebus Says

“So I’d be surprised if this links up to anything that’s serious in the way of collusion like an espionage conspiracy,” McCarthy said.

Ingraham urged Americans to remember “as we talk about” these new Cohen claims that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign funded the unverified anti-Trump dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, alleging Trump-Russia collusion. The FBI used the dossier to renew surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“I think we forget Hillary Clinton paid for dirt that was assembled by the Russians in the form of this Steele dossier,” Ingraham noted. “So she actually went further than meeting with someone. Her people paid for it. They got dirt, and then it ended up making its way all the way through the U.S. government.”

McCarthy speculated that Cohen’s new claim and reports that Mueller is now combing through Trump’s tweets for evidence of obstruction of justice indicate “that the Mueller investigation is winding down to a conclusion.”

If Mueller has decided “that Trump is not a target” for collusion and if he’s wrapping up his probe, Strassel said she wished “that he’d feel he had a duty to tell the country the president is no longer a target so people can start to move on.”

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