There are so many shady characters in orbit around Stormygate — Cohen! Trump! Rudy! Stormy! Avenatti! — that a less ostentatiously shady but still shady figure like Lanny Davis seems like a pillar of rectitude by comparison. If there’s anyone connected to this clusterfark whose word is a bit more credible than everyone else’s, the thinking goes, it’s … probably Lanny Davis’s? Maybe?
Relatively. Sort of.
That’s been the thinking. Time for that thinking to end.
Lanny Davis, a spokesman and attorney for Cohen, said in an interview this weekend that he is no longer certain about claims he made to reporters on background and on the record in recent weeks about what Cohen knows about Trump’s awareness of the Russian efforts…
“I should have been more clear — including with you — that I could not independently confirm what happened,” Davis said, adding: “I regret my error.”
That’s from WaPo, which was told by Davis that Cohen had personally watched as Don Jr told POTUS before the meeting with the Russians that he was going to sit down with someone to try to get dirt on Hillary. Trump denied it emphatically and Cohen himself never mentioned it during his testimony before Congress. But it was a bigggg story last month.
And now, to all appearances, a case of (possibly) fake news.
But not the only case. Remember when Davis strongly hinted last week that Cohen has information for Mueller about whether Trump knew of Russia’s campaign hacking before it happened? Minor postscript:
But asked Saturday how confident he was that Trump knew about the hacking before it became public, Davis said: “I am not sure. There’s a possibility that is the case. But I am not sure.”
Davis said that in discussing the hacking allegations last week, he should have emphasized his lack of certainty. He said he raised the idea that Cohen might have information about Trump’s knowledge because he had a strong feeling that might be the case.
He had a “strong feeling” that the president is guilty of collusion with the Kremlin to damage the Democratic nominee so he went running to a major American newspaper with it. And now, having thought it through a bit further, he’s no longer sure about his “feeling.”
Something’s not right. Why would Davis confess to his, ahem, “exaggerations” now? Unless Cohen himself is whispering to WaPo about what he does and doesn’t know of the Trump Tower meeting and collusion, there’d be no way for the paper to catch Davis in his exaggeration. Did Cohen lie to Davis about what he knew/saw and then came clean to him privately, leading Davis to run to WaPo to correct the record?
And why is CNN refusing to correct its story from July 27 about the Trump Tower meeting in light of Davis’s walkback? “We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting of it,” the network said this weekend. Go back and read it and you’ll see that CNN cites “sources” — plural — for the claim that Cohen saw Don Jr give Trump advance notice of the meeting, meaning that it wasn’t just Davis who told them it happened. That makes me think that Cohen was lying to the people around him, Davis among them, and now Davis feels obliged to clean up his part of it, at least.
But why would Cohen lie to his own lawyer? Half-assed theory: Maybe he was trying to scare Trump into either bankrolling a vigorous legal defense for him or pardoning him outright, and one point of leverage was leaking dubious claims to the press via Davis like “Trump knew in advance about the Trump Tower meeting!” or “Trump might have known about the hackings before they happened!” Then, once he realized POTUS wouldn’t be coming to his rescue and that it was time to cop a plea, he abandoned those claims. His value as a potential witness is in his credibility and it doesn’t help his credibility if he has dubious accusations attributed to his camp floating around in the media that can’t be substantiated. (Particularly when they’re contradicted by what he told Congress.) So maybe he told Davis that it’s time to reel in some of the most sensational stuff, as embarrassing as that might be. Although if that’s true, why aren’t all of CNN’s sources for the Trump Tower running to the network to walk back their own claims? Very strange.