In late July, CNN ran with a story that asserted that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was prepared to testify to the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation that then-candidate Donald Trump knew in advance about the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials met with a Russian lawyer to obtain information on Hillary Clinton.
That story, which was quickly picked up by other news outlets, received a breath of fresh air on Aug. 21 when Cohen pleaded guilty in a deal with New York prosecutors and anti-Trump liberals were cheered by the thought that “We’ve got him now!” But that joy at potential criminal implications for Trump was rather short-lived.
It was soon revealed that the anonymous source for CNN’s report was Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis, who has subsequently walked back his claim that Cohen will testify that Trump knew about the meeting in advance, and admitted that he had lied about that claim to CNN and other outlets.
Davis admitted on Monday in an article published by Buzzfeed that he had been CNN’s anonymous source, even as he had denied on air to CNN’s Anderson Cooper last week that he had been the source for the story. (“I think the reporting of the story got mixed up in the course of a criminal investigation,” Davis told Cooper, according to New York magazine. “We were not the source of the story.” )
Davis now says that he “made a mistake,” and with regard to the blatant lie he told Cooper, Davis explained, “I didn’t mean to be cute.” Davis has since been outed as the anonymous source for other outlets reporting the same story. Still, CNN has stuck by its original reporting, despite the developments.
Hilariously, the Washington Examiner reported that the revelation Davis lied about his client’s knowledge and intentions has compelled some donors to the “Michael Cohen Truth Fund” to demand a refund of their contribution.
That “truth fund” was recently unveiled and promoted by Davis in order to raise funds for Cohen’s legal defense. The notion that Cohen was about to “flip” on Trump seemingly convinced plenty of anti-Trumpers to donate their own money to the effort — at least $165,000 worth.
But the outlook of some donors has shifted in light of Davis’ misleading claims about Cohen, and at least two such donors told the Examiner that they now “regret” having donated to the fund.
An anonymous donor, identified only as a Switzerland-based tax adviser, donated $150 to the cause, but now would like to receive a refund of that donation.
“If it is possible to get the money back, I would appreciate this,” she told the Examiner.
A man identified as a Los Angeles attorney named Henry Gradstein told the Examiner he donated $100 to the fund. While he doesn’t really expect to get his money back now that it’s been revealed the donations were solicited under false pretenses, he suggested issuing refunds would be the right thing for Davis to do.
“As an ethical matter, yes, very disappointing,” Gradstein told the Examiner. “As a practical matter, no — it’s $100.”
It is unclear at this point if Davis would directly benefit from the funds raised, as the description for the fundraiser declared that it was “a transparent trust account, with all donations going to help Michael Cohen and his family as he goes forward on his journey to tell the truth about Donald Trump.”
However, considering that Davis is representing Cohen as his attorney, one would presume that his attorney fees could be paid out of the funds raised by donations.
The Examiner reported that Davis did not respond to its requests for comment.
It is worth noting that of the estimated $165,000 raised through donations thus far, $50,000 was donated anonymously by one donor, according to the Examiner. Additionally, at least eight other unknown individuals donated at least $1,000 to the fund.
It remains to be seen if there will be an outcry of demands for refunds now that Davis’ lies have been exposed, or if Davis will honor such requests for refunds, as that could lead to a cascade of additional demands that could very well wipe out the bulk of the fund raised.
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