The Jury Talks Back


Did Trump Know About the Trump Tower Meeting in Advance? Of Course He Did — But a Story Saying So Is Being Retracted

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 4:54 pm

About a month ago, I passed along a CNN story claiming that Michael Cohen had information that Donald Trump knew about the infamous Trump Tower meeting in advance. I included a note of caution in the post:

Cohen is hardly Mr. Credibility, and the “sources” relied upon say he doesn’t have evidence.

But, I stated (and still believe — see below) that of course Trump knew about the meeting in advance.

It’s now being reported that the source for the stories, Lanny Davis, is recanting:

CNN reported last month that Cohen was claiming to have witnessed Trump being informed of the Russians’ offer by Trump Jr. and that the then-candidate approved the meeting.

The following day, The Post reported that Cohen had told associates that he witnessed an exchange in which Trump Jr. told his father about an upcoming gathering in which he expected to get information about Clinton. The Post did not report that Trump Jr. told his father that the information was coming from Russians.

The information in the Post story, which was attributed to one person familiar with discussions among Cohen’s friends, came from Davis, who is now acknowledging his role on the record.

Davis said he should not have expressed such confidence in his information.

“I should have been more clear — including with you — that I could not independently confirm what happened,” Davis said, adding: “I regret my error.”

Having passed along the original story — even with the cautionary language — I think it’s incumbent on me to pass along this retraction.

That said:

Did Trump know about the meeting in advance?

Well of course he did.

You don’t need a questionable anonymously sourced news story to know that. All you need is your common sense.


  1. A reminder: The original story last month prompted Trump to deny he knew about the meeting but he did admit, for the first time, that the meeting was about getting dirt on Hillary, not about Russian adoptions.

    Now why would that story prompt Trump to make that admission? My guess is because he knew the story was true, even though he may or may not have realized Cohen couldn’t prove it.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/26/2018 @ 5:32 pm

  2. So, the post relied on Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis (!) for a story, citing him as an anonymous source.
    That’s hardly good journalism on the part of the Post (Though I’d have no issues with it if they’d used caveats, like Patterico did). Lawyers defending clients tend to be advocates for their clients (it’s their job). That of course includes getting stories out that are useful to their clients, and the truth does not matter (especially out of court).

    Was the Trump campaign interested in getting dirt on Hillary? I should darn well hope so. The only way that’s problematic is if it’s illegal, and also if it’s any kind of a quid pro quo (with Russia or anyone else) regarding official favors.
    Yes, I do have major qualms about the meeting *if* Donald Trump knew, in advance, that it was with regime-connected Russians.

    But if even the post did not claim that Trump Jr. mentioned the meeting was with Russians, where’s the evidence, or even an indication, that Donald Trump knew, in advance, that the meeting was with regime-connected Russians?

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 8/26/2018 @ 7:39 pm

  3. There’s absolutely no need to use common sense here, Patterico. SeeLarry David: What Really Happened at Trump Tower; A transcript of ‘that’ meeting with the Russians surfaces — and a controversy is settled,” New York Times (August 10, 2018). This revealing description begins like this:

    Everybody wants to know what was said in that Trump Tower meeting with the Russians in June 2016. Well, other than the people in the room, I, Steven Yablonsky, alone know exactly what was said because I worked as a janitor in the building and was hiding in the closet recording all of it on my phone. As it happens, I was fired yesterday for not putting up the “wet floor” sign in the lobby, and a few people took a tumble, including Tiffany, so now I can finally reveal all.


    Through a crack in the closet door, four Russians enter. They are Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rinat Akhmetshin, Irakly Kaveladze and Anatoli Samochornov. Already present are Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Rob Goldstone. They all say hello and introductions are made.

    Rinat: Where shall we sit?

    Don Jr.: Anywhere you’d like.

    Rinat: You want big chair?

    Don Jr.: You can have the big chair.

    Rinat: Ah, I feel a little funny.

    Natalia: Take big chair. Don Jr. say O.K.

    Rinat: (sits) I like this. It sinks in. Might fall asleep.

    Et cetera. Seriously, if the Russians had coughed up any evidence of a crime by Hillary, who doubts that the Trumpers would have taken the evidence to the FBI like good law-abiding Republicans? I suppose liberals would then still have howled that the Trumpers received a thing of value that exceeded campaign donation limits, whereas Hillary paid fair market value for all the crap she got from the Russians via Steele. Correct?

    Comment by Andrew Hyman — 8/26/2018 @ 8:14 pm

  4. @Andrew Hyman;

    Under normal circumstances, I’d say that the Trump campaign should have invited an FBI agent (undercover) to the meeting, and that not doing so was highly disreputable.

    However, under the operand circumstances, which were the FBI and Justice Department acting (known, even then) as shills for the Hillary campaign (Such as their handling of Hillary’s actual felonies)I think they’d have been nuts to trust the FBI – or anyone who would be obligated to report to them.

    What I will condemn whoever set up that meeting for is stupidity. It reeked of a setup, and probably was; those Russian agents met with Fusion GPS before going to Trump Tower. That’s the same Fusion GPS the Democrats and the Hillary campaign were paying, disguised as “legal fees”.

    What I’d like to know is how, exactly, Fusion GPS was able to whistle up a couple of actual Russian agents? The Muller probe is supposed to be looking for collusion with Russia, and for a secret operative of the Hillary campaign to have actual Russian agents at their beck and call sure looks like collusion with Russia to me.

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 8/26/2018 @ 8:46 pm

  5. Yes, this setup may well have been the “insurance policy” reference by Strzok. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Special Counsel to expose this setup, alas.

    Comment by Andrew Hyman — 8/26/2018 @ 8:54 pm

  6. Patrick would be all over this, but for his determination to prove that Trump shouldn’t have “messed with Texas” (i.e. messed with Cruz), regardless of the fact that Team Cruz pulled a dirty trick on Ben Carson long before Team Trump pulled a dirty trick on Cruz.

    Comment by Andrew Hyman — 8/26/2018 @ 9:12 pm

  7. No.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/26/2018 @ 9:27 pm

  8. Who cares… honestly? This is all just becoming one giant circle jerk in the media, with no evidence forthcoming of any illegality, and until the press or Mueller has actual proof of wrongdoing stories like these just make me want to spend my time focusing on other more productive things than keeping up with the latest non-story.

    Also, Andrew, (re: Carson) when your political team tells the press you’re going home after Iowa without any further explanation what exactly do you expect will happen? Carson’s team screwed up big time in Iowa and then tried to blame Cruz’s team (and ignored the other campaigns that were saying the same thing internally) for their PR snafu. Of course Trump used that to his advantage and Trump die-hards can’t seem to allow reality and the truth sway their slanted view of the Senator. Which is why Cruz is in trouble in Texas, because of Trump supporters who can’t let it go and won’t practice what they preach regarding binary decisions.

    Comment by Sean — 8/27/2018 @ 7:13 am

  9. Both sides are leaking strategically, plus Trump leaks to keep his supporters agitated and involved. He is glad if it also demoralizes people who aren’t his supporters and convinces them to quit paying attention. Win-Win.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/27/2018 @ 7:28 am

  10. no evidence forthcoming of any illegality

    What is already publicly known and acknowledged about the meeting shows senior Trump campaign officials engaged in a conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Code.

    The meeting itself was an overt act in furtherance of said conspiracy.

    Comment by Dave — 8/27/2018 @ 8:21 am

  11. A meeting to dig up dirt on an opponent… yeah, that is worth wall-to-wall coverage on all media outlets for months. No evidence that anything came from the meeting, no information shared, only that they met; certainly riveting stuff worthy of Watergate-level pearl clutching. If they have EVIDENCE that the campaign actually bought information from the Russians on Hillary (like the DNC actually did with their Steele dossier) or made a promise to remove sanctions without authority to do so then show it to the people, otherwise this is all speculation and opinions based on speculation–and it’s grown tiresome.

    I’m all for sending these fools to jail… if they actually broke the law. But for now, all we’re getting is a boisterous snipe hunt.

    Comment by Sean — 8/27/2018 @ 10:34 am

  12. Sean, if Team Cruz did nothing wrong, then Cruz shouldn’t have apologized.

    I supported Cruz. When Trump was the last GOP candidate standing, I supported Trump. I very much hope Cruz wins against O’Rourke.

    Comment by Andrew Hyman — 8/27/2018 @ 12:26 pm

  13. like the DNC actually did with their Steele dossier

    Paying a foreign national or company fair market price for a service is not a violation of the law.

    Soliciting or accepting a gift from a foreign principal is.

    Comment by Dave — 8/27/2018 @ 12:44 pm

  14. I never said it was a violation of the law, simply that right now the press doesn’t have a shred of evidence that their meeting even went that far. Again, jail time for breaking the law should be warranted, but right now they’re running wild on nothing but speculation. All we know, for a fact, is that some Russian “agent” setup a meeting at Trump tower and that as so far nothing came of it. The act of meeting with the Russians isn’t a crime, but the media (who all laughed at Romney’s claims about the Russians) acts now like even eating borshch or sipping vodka should be treated as high crimes and treason.

    Comment by Sean — 8/27/2018 @ 12:58 pm

  15. The act of meeting with the Russians isn’t a crime

    Soliciting anything of value from a foreign principal is a crime.

    Conspiring with others to commit that crime is, itself, a crime.

    Trump Jr. clearly violated the law, based solely on what is in his emails.

    Comment by Dave — 8/27/2018 @ 8:26 pm

  16. @ Dave,

    I believe you’re mistaken regarding the legalities of bribing foreign officials (which is what Steele claims he did, using the Democrat’s money).

    It’s called FCPA, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

    It’s a felony under FCPA and other statutes, for a US private entity or person to bribe foreign officials. And also, entities are liable for actions undertaken on their behalf by retained 3rd parties.

    And incidentally, courts would look rather dimly upon the notion that bribery is in any way “paying a fair market price for a service.”

    Also, if you examine your own argument, you’re essentially claiming that it’d be okay if the Trump campaign had paid the Russians for dirt, whereas it’s illegal to even meet in hopes of getting it for free?

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 8/28/2018 @ 7:47 pm

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