Donald Trump, his former lawyer Michael Cohen, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller (File)
In a rare public statement, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office disputes a BuzzFeed report that Donald Trump directed his lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
Buzzfeed wrote on Thursday that Trump told Cohen to deceive a hearing about negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015-2016. The lawyer pleaded guilty in November to the deception.
The report cited “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter” and claimed Mueller’s Trump-Russia inquiry was basing its finding on interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization, internal company e-mails, text messages, and other documents.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, pushed back on Friday:
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 19, 2019
Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith responded, “We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”
Before the Mueller statement was issued, the journalist who wrote the story, Jason Leopold, defended it in interviews with other media outlets:
“We have seen documents. We have been briefed on documents. We are very confident in our reporting," BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold, who co-wrote bombshell new report, says. pic.twitter.com/5RXOx8rvo0
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 18, 2019
“One person familiar with Cohen’s testimony to the Special Counsel’s prosecutors” said Cohen did not state that Trump had pressured him to lie to Congress.
Trump Threatens Cohen
Trump, under pressure from a series of revelations — including his campaign’s links to Russian officials and the FBI’s opening of a counter-intelligence investigation in May 2017 over his actions — tried to celebrate on Friday night: “A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our country!”
Cohen falsely told Congress that the negotiations for a Moscow Trump Tower, begun in autumn 2015, ended in January 2016. In fact, they continued until June, after Russian military intelligence began hacking of computers linked to Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton and Kremlin-linked envoys offered anti-Clinton material to Trump’s top advisors.
The lawyer is scheduled to testify before a House committee on February 7. He is also expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Before the Mueller statement, Trump issued an apparent threat against Cohen: “Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch his father-in-law!”
In an interview last Saturday with his favored outlet Fox TV, Trump said, “[Cohen] should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at.”
Asked for the name of the father-in-law, Trump said, “I don’t know, but you’ll find out, and you’ll look into it because nobody knows what’s going on over there.”
Cohen’s father-in-law Fima Shusterman reportedly loaned $20 million to a Chicago cab company owner who was mentioned in FBI warrants used to raid Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office in April 2018.