CNN and NBC came out with a potentially big story Thursday night, reporting that Michael Cohen says Donald Trump was fully aware of the infamous meeting between Russians and some of Trump's closest advisers ahead of the election. On Friday, the president himself emphatically denied the allegation made by his former attorney. "NO, I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.," Trump tweeted. "Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?)." The latter is a reference to this. So is the Cohen allegation a big deal? Some opinions:
- Cohen's word: The allegation would indeed be a big deal if true, but Cohen's word alone is not enough, and he reportedly has no recordings or other forms of evidence to back it up, writes Adam Serwer in the Atlantic. Plus, Cohen may be looking for a deal to avoid prison time after the FBI raid on his offices, and thus "there may be reason to doubt that Cohen’s allegations are true." But one other thing to note: CNN says others were present at the meeting Cohen mentions, meaning Robert Mueller might be able to corroborate.
- Bigger trouble? If true, the revelation "would directly implicate Trump himself in an effort to conspire with a foreign power to tip the election to him, and a subsequent effort to cover that up," writes Greg Sargent at the Washington Post. But even if Cohen's allegation can't be proven, Sargent sees a bigger problem for Trump: The story's "real significance may be that it signals a further unraveling of the Cohen-Trump relationship that could lead Cohen to share previously undisclosed information about other matters related to Trump and Russia that still remain shrouded in mystery." (Including this maybe-trip to Prague.)
- Giuliani scoffs: “He’s been lying for years,” Giuliani says of Cohen, per Politico. “I mean, the tapes that we have demonstrate any number of very serious lies by him back a year and a half ago, including his fooling people, hiding tape recordings, telling them they weren’t recorded, lying to their face, breaking faith with them, taping his client, which is a disbarable offense. I don’t see how he has any credibility.”
- Pardon plea? Chris Cillizza at CNN wonders if Cohen, with this allegation and the earlier revelation of his recorded conversation with Trump, is trying to "strong-arm Trump into a pardon." These two things could be Cohen's way of signalling to the president that "he's not bluffing" and could reveal much more information in the near future. "That could be the stuff a pardon is made of."
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