Fri 26 April 2019

President Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen says Trump knew in advance that WikiLeaks was planning to release hacked emails that would be damaging to then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In explosive testimony given to several media outlets late Tuesday, Cohen said Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone had told the president about his communications with Julian Assange just before WikiLeaks released a trove of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

“He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails,” Cohen says.

Cohen is scheduled to deliver his testimony Wednesday during a public hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

“A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time,” Cohen says in the prepared testimony. “The answer is yes.”

Cohen says he was in Trump’s office in July 2016 when Stone spoke to Trump via speakerphone and told him that he had communicated with Assange.

During the phone call, Stone said “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” according to the prepared remarks.

Trump responded by saying “wouldn’t that be great.”

A short time later, WikiLeaks released thousands of hacked DNC emails.

Stone: the Key Conduit

Former adviser to United States President Donald J. Trump, Roger Stone, in his vehicle as he departs the US District Court in Washington, DC following a show cause hearing to explain a photo he posted on Instagram of Judge Amy Berman Jackson with crosshairs next to her head on Thursday, February 21, 2019. Stone subsequently deleted the photo and the post and apologized to Judge Jackson in a letter. Credit: Ron Sachs / CNP/Sipa USA (RESTRICTION: NO New York or New Jersey Newspapers or newspapers within a 75 mile radius of New York City)

The subsequent flood of hacked documents — and the media frenzy they produced — are thought to have played a pivotal role in the outcome of the election. The strategic release of emails not only dominated the news cycle, but it also shielded Trump from negative headlines in the aftermath of scandals like the infamous Access Hollywood tape.

An assessment by the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the emails were provided to WikiLeaks by the Russian government, which sought to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

The leaked emails are now at the heart of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

As part of that investigation, Stone was taken into custody in an early morning raid last month after being indicted on charges that he lied about his communications with the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.

Stone is considered to have been a key conduit between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign.

Trump’s Testimony called into Question

Meanwhile, Cohen agreed to cooperate with federal investigators as part of a plea deal in his own criminal case. He begins a three-year prison sentence in May after pleading guilty to lying to Congress and committing campaign finance violations during his time working for Trump.

If Cohen’s account is true, Trump could face criminal charges for lying to federal investigators.

Cohen testified before a closed hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee for more than nine hours on Tuesday. After Wednesday’s public hearing, he will testify before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday in another closed-door session.

If Cohen’s allegations prove to be true, this would be the first time anyone with direct knowledge of the situation has confirmed that Trump was aware of the WikiLeaks dump before it happened.

Moreover, Cohen’s sworn testimony calls into question Trump’s own account of the matter.

In November, Trump said in a written answer to Mueller that Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks.

He maintains that he was unaware of WikiLeaks’ plans to release stolen emails at strategic timepoints during the presidential race, despite mentioning the organization more than 140 times in the final month of the campaign..

If Cohen’s account is true, Trump could face criminal charges for lying to federal investigators.

Thus far, Mueller’s team has indicted or gotten guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies, including six Trump campaign associates. Five of those six have pleaded guilty.

Clearly, Mueller isn’t afraid to bring charges against those who lie to investigators — and based on Cohen’s testimony, that may even include the president.

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