By Chuck Ross
Lanny Davis has acknowledged that he was an anonymous source for CNN for a now-debunked story published last month claiming that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is willing to tell the special counsel’s office that President Trump had foreknowledge of the infamous Trump Tower meeting.
Davis, a Clinton-connected public relations guru who is representing Cohen, admitted to BuzzFeed News on Monday that he was a source for CNN’s story, which appeared on July 27.
The report cited “sources with knowledge” of Cohen’s comments who claimed that he was in a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. when he told his father about a meeting set up with a group of Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The report marked a major development in the Russia investigation because both Trump Jr. and Trump have denied that Trump knew about the June 9, 2016 meeting until it was reported last July.
But Davis undercut the story in an interview on Wednesday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Davis said that the original CNN report got “mixed up,” and that Cohen does not know whether Trump had advance knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting.
“So Michael Cohen does not have information that President Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians beforehand or even after?” Cooper asked Davis.
“No, he does not,” replied Davis.
Davis also asserted that “we were not the source of the story.”
But Davis now says that he “made a mistake.” And regarding his denial to Cooper about being a CNN source, he said that “I did not mean to be cute.”
While Davis has apologized for his role in spreading the story, CNN is standing by its report, which was authored by former Obama administration official Jim Sciutto, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Carl Bernstein and Marshall Cohen.
“We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting of it,” a CNN spokeswoman told The Washington Post on Saturday.
CNN reporters also defended the story in its “Reliable Sources” newsletter on Sunday night.
“Pro-Trump websites are claiming the CNN story was a ‘lie,’ and that it’s been ‘debunked.’ They might want it to be ‘debunked,’ but it’s not. The critics don’t know who CNN’s sources were,” wrote Oliver Darcy, a media reporter at CNN.
CNN doubled down on its defense of the story in a statement on Monday to BuzzFeed.
Davis has had to walk back other bombshell allegations about Trump.
In multiple interviews last week, Davis said that Cohen had “knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”
In an interview with Bloomberg last Wednesday, Davis said that Cohen “has information that would be of interest to Mr. Mueller in his probe of a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy, very similar to the indictment of the 12 Russians.”
But Davis told The Washington Post on Sunday that he is now “not sure” about the allegation.
“I am not sure. There’s a possibility that is the case. But I am not sure,” he said, adding that “I was giving an instinct that [Cohen] might have something to say of interest to the special counsel.”
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