Mueller disputes report that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress
Washington: Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office has disputed a BuzzFeed News story as "not accurate", after the outlet reported that President Donald Trump had directed his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
"BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the Special Counsel's Office, and characterisation of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen's Congressional testimony are not accurate," Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller's office, said in a statement on Friday night.
It's highly unusual for the special counsel's office to provide a statement to the media, outside of court filings and judicial hearings, about any of its ongoing investigative activities, CNN reported.
In response, BuzzFeed said in a statement: "We are continuing to report and determine what the special counsel is disputing. We remain confident in the accuracy of our report."
Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief at Buzzfeed, echoed the outlet's statement, saying: "We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he's disputing."
The BuzzFeed story, by reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier published on Thursday night, asserted that Cohen had told Mueller's investigators that "after the election, the President personally instructed him to lie - by claiming that negotiations (for a Trump development project in Moscow) ended months earlier than they actually did - in order to obscure Trump's involvement"
BuzzFeed attributed its assertion to two law enforcement sources.
The report also quoted the sources as saying that Mueller's office had corroborated Trump company emails, text messages and other documents, though the BuzzFeed reporters were unclear on Friday in television interviews about whether they had seen the documents described in their story.
The story made several other claims that remain uncorroborated by other media outlets regarding Cohen's lies to Congress and communications with Mueller.
Trump addressed Muller's spokesman's statement Friday night, referencing how BuzzFeed had published a dossier in 2016 of uncorroborated intelligence compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, CNN reported.
"Remember it was Buzzfeed that released the totally discredited 'Dossier,' paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats (as opposition research), on which the entire Russian probe is based!" he tweeted. "A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!"
Steele worked for the intelligence firm Fusion GPS, which was retained by Perkins Coie, the law firm for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani praised Mueller for issuing the disputing statement, and accused the press of showing bias against the President in its coverage of the BuzzFeed report.
A Trump Organization source told CNN on Friday that the company knew of no documents regarding the proposed Trump Tower in Moscow that reflected conversations about the matter after January 2016.