A spokesman for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office is disputing an explosive BuzzFeed News report that President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
BuzzFeed reported Trump had told Cohen to lie under oath about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, which would be a felony. It also reported Trump had told Cohen to make plans for him to visit Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Citing "two sources" involved in the law enforcement investigation of the matter, it reported Cohen told Mueller that Trump instructed him to lie to say negotiations over the building ended months before they did, and it said Mueller's office learned of it through "interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents."
Spokesman for Mueller's office Peter Carr said in a statement the report was "not accurate."
"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," he said.
The special counsel investigation began in 2017, and it has been highly rare for Mueller's office to issue public statements about the huge volume of reporting on it.
The report, which BuzzFeed posted late Thursday night, set off a firestorm, with multiple Democrats saying that, if true, the allegations therein merited impeachment proceedings. It dominated cable news coverage, and it led to a flat denial by Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani, who said the charge was "categorically false."
Despite Carr's statement, BuzzFeed said Friday it was standing by its report and trying to figure out which aspects of it were deemed inaccurate by Mueller's team. Editor in chief Ben Smith said: "We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he's disputing."
In response to the statement tonight from the Special Counsel's spokesman: We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he's disputing.
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) January 19, 2019
Cohen, Trump's longtime lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty last August to eight charges of campaign finance violations and fraud. He pleaded guilty in November to a separate charge brought by Mueller's office of lying to Congress about the negotiations over the Trump Tower in Moscow.
Trump's supporters expressed jubilation over the Mueller office's statement, including Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 19, 2019
Trump himself retweeted conservative commentators John Cardillo and Dan Bongino tauntingly saying they knew all along the story was no good.
UPDATE: 11:05 P.M.: The headline of the story changed the word "refutes" to "disputes."