A spokesperson for special counsel Robert Mueller’s office released a statement Friday disputing a BuzzFeed report alleging President Donald Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to make false statements to Congress regarding a proposed real estate deal in Russia.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” special counsel spokesperson Peter Carr said in a statement.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 19, 2019
BuzzFeed, citing two unidentified law enforcement officials, alleged in a Thursday evening report that President Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and that he regularly briefed the president and his family on the Trump Tower project in Moscow. BuzzFeed claimed Cohen told Mueller that President Trump personally instructed him to lie about the timing of the project in order to obscure Trump’s involvement. No other news organization was able to confirm the report nearly 24 hours after it’s publication.
Further, BuzzFeed said Mueller’s investigators learned about President Trump’s directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.” The report says Cohen then acknowledged Trump’s instructions when he was interviewed by the Mueller team. “We are continuing to report and determine what the special counsel is disputing. We remain confident in the accuracy of our report,” Ben Smith, BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, said in a statement on the special counsel’s dispute of its reportage.
The special counsel’s statement came hours after several prominent news organizations, including Breitbart News, expressed deep skepticism about the report. In a Friday morning opinion-editorial, Breitbart News’s John Nolte wrote that report’s co-author, Jason Leopold, has gotten in hot water for erroneous reporting. Columbia Journalism Review has described Leopold “serial fabulist,” who falsely claimed Karl Rove would be indicted for leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name to the media. Further, Nolte also pointed out that President Trump is not an avid user of email or text messages — thus leaving little other means to corroborate BuzzFeed’s story. Speaking with CNN’s New Day Friday morning, Leopold’s co-author, Anthony Cormier, stood by the report, though he did admit he had “not personally” seen the underlying evidence.
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