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Tapper: What did Trump know, and when?

CNN's Jake Tapper walks through the various stories told about the 2016 Trump tower meeting.

Posted: Jul 29, 2018 5:39 AM
Updated: Jul 29, 2018 7:31 AM

If Michael Cohen can show federal prosecutors credible evidence that President Donald Trump knew in advance about the infamous Trump Tower Russia meeting of June 9, 2016 -- as Cohen now reportedly claims -- the President's son could be facing perjury charges.

It was Donald Jr. who approved the time, location and participants in a meeting that included a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and a Russian-American lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin. He also brought to the Trump Tower conference table the then-chairman of Trump's campaign, Paul Manafort, and brother-in-law Jared Kushner among others.

The President has repeatedly denied being told about the meeting before it happened. He has said this to the press and the public, most recently on Friday via Twitter, but apparently never to federal investigators or under oath. Under the circumstances, if Cohen's claim is corroborated -- a big "if" -- this may be a reprehensible lie, but it's not necessarily criminal. Still, it is so serious that it could theoretically give special counsel Robert Mueller the leverage to propose a deal: Resign the presidency in exchange for immunity for Don Jr. Otherwise Don Jr. will be indicted for lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and could -- again, theoretically -- go to jail.

In extensive testimony under oath before the committee in September 2017, the following exchange occurred:

Patrick Davis, deputy chief investigative counsel: "Did you inform your father about the meeting or the underlying offer prior to the meeting?"

Donald Trump Jr.: "No, I did not."

Of course, the younger Trump can assert that someone else told the President, but who is the first person the President would have called upon hearing that such a meeting was scheduled? Common sense suggests his son, the person who set up the meeting. Undoubtedly, as investigators seek additional evidence, this common-sense proposition will not be hard to prove.

If Cohen's claim is proven to be true, this is materially false testimony given under oath. That is, perjury.

Cohen's testimony alone, however, would be insufficient to support a perjury conviction. The federal "two-witness" rule doesn't really require a second witness to the actual perjury but rather any kind of reliable corroborating evidence. One example of this type of corroborating evidence might include candidate Trump's promise two days before the meeting he was going to make a "major speech" in the following week about "... all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. ... And I think you're going to find it very, very interesting."

Prosecutors will argue that he was anticipating "dirt" from Don Jr.'s scheduled meeting on June 9 with Veselnitskaya. Cohen's criminal lawyers will be gathering other corroboration of Cohen's claims to negotiate a favorable deal for their client.

In such a high-stakes chess game, though, the President could respond by pardoning his son and appealing to the Republican Congress to fight off Democratic impeachment efforts. Hypothetically, the Republican Senate could, even in the face of clear proof of perjury, refuse to seek a criminal referral of Donald Jr.'s perjury charges for trial.

As long as the Republicans maintain a congressional majority, the President may well survive this battle. If the Democrats take control of Congress in November, any Cohen testimony against the President could supply critical ammunition to support an impeachment effort in 2019. Criminal charges against a sitting president remain unlikely.

This first volley of shots fired by Cohen, the President's former personal lawyer and renowned "fixer," suggests that he may have additional evidence to sink the Trump presidency. Even more ominous as federal prosecutors empanel a grand jury in the Southern District of New York, the President's true Achilles' heel may turn out to be not collusion with the Russians but perjury by those, including family members, who may have lied to protect him or the Trump Organization.

And with the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, under subpoena (and Cohen waiting in the wings), the Trump Organization had better batten down the hatches. A storm is brewing that may be big enough to put the Trump empire under water and take the Trump presidency with it.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 485655

Reported Deaths: 6558
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1007641586
Ramsey43106801
Dakota36297390
Anoka33293385
Washington22078256
Stearns18734201
St. Louis14805262
Scott13290107
Wright12526115
Olmsted1178988
Sherburne872872
Carver772640
Clay691587
Rice670491
Blue Earth594735
Kandiyohi579574
Crow Wing520681
Chisago499045
Otter Tail482170
Benton446490
Winona418349
Mower404731
Douglas392668
Nobles387047
Goodhue385768
Polk343162
McLeod339349
Beltrami337951
Morrison324547
Itasca313046
Lyon313044
Becker311342
Isanti306154
Steele300411
Carlton300149
Pine282016
Freeborn280723
Nicollet258641
Todd248030
Brown245037
Le Sueur235320
Mille Lacs227447
Cass220024
Waseca208717
Meeker207434
Martin189528
Wabasha18653
Roseau180217
Hubbard160640
Houston157314
Dodge15224
Renville149640
Redwood147027
Fillmore13728
Chippewa136335
Cottonwood134820
Pennington134416
Wadena130920
Faribault123017
Aitkin118833
Sibley117310
Watonwan11738
Rock115714
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9448
Jackson93510
Swift87918
Pope8045
Marshall77815
Stevens7418
Lake74018
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68416
Wilkin67110
Koochiching61811
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5062
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned46768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3055
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 362827

Reported Deaths: 5440
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58260551
Linn20670313
Scott18318210
Black Hawk16258292
Woodbury14979211
Johnson1384874
Dubuque13562194
Dallas1138690
Pottawattamie10791143
Story1024945
Warren556674
Clinton543784
Cerro Gordo533782
Webster519587
Marshall497272
Sioux494869
Buena Vista474537
Des Moines458861
Muscatine452291
Wapello4345108
Jasper417766
Plymouth395378
Lee375452
Marion359169
Jones294154
Henry293337
Carroll286249
Bremer280854
Crawford275135
Boone259730
Washington254347
Benton253854
Mahaska224746
Jackson221638
Dickinson217840
Tama213765
Kossuth208555
Clay193625
Hamilton192142
Delaware189140
Winneshiek189127
Buchanan185729
Fayette185235
Page183319
Hardin181439
Wright179931
Harrison179469
Cedar178523
Clayton168154
Butler167231
Mills163020
Floyd162741
Cherokee154836
Madison154718
Poweshiek154330
Hancock147130
Allamakee146747
Lyon145941
Iowa145023
Appanoose139247
Grundy139230
Jefferson138734
Winnebago138631
Cass134751
Calhoun133811
Mitchell130940
Louisa128241
Union126631
Chickasaw125215
Sac124618
Emmet121740
Shelby121733
Franklin118319
Humboldt117925
Guthrie116628
Palo Alto105221
Montgomery104136
Howard102921
Clarke100420
Unassigned9900
Keokuk98229
Monroe93328
Adair92128
Ida91432
Pocahontas85419
Davis83123
Monona81627
Greene77510
Lucas74021
Osceola70615
Worth6997
Taylor66612
Fremont5909
Decatur5829
Van Buren56118
Ringgold52320
Wayne48921
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Adams3274
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