A spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller late Friday denied a BuzzFeed report alleging President Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
It is a rare public statement by Mueller’s team, which almost never comments on media reports.
“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,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mr. Mueller.
The president expressed vindication, saying Buzzfeed has shown a consistent bias against him.
“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! A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
The statement caps a day of denials issued by Mr. Trump and his legal team after the story hit Thursday night
It raises questions about BuzzFeed’s sources for the story, which alleged Mr. Trump directed his longtime fixer to lie to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Russia.
Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to one count of lying to Congress, telling lawmakers it was scrapped in January 2016 when, in fact, it was an active project in the summer of 2016, just months before the presidential election.
The criminal complaint does not allege that Mr. Trump or anyone else told Mr. Cohen to lie.
Last month a federal judge sentenced Mr. Cohen to three years in federal prison for lying to Congress and other crimes.
Anthony Cormier, who co-authored the bombshell report, told CNN on Friday he had not personally reviewed the evidence. But also said the story was 100 percent accurate based on information provided to the special counsel.
Ben Smith, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief, took to Twitter Friday night to defend the publication and its reporters.
“We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,” he Tweeted.
Lanny Davis, a spokesman for Mr. Cohen refused to confirm or deny the story’s veracity speaking with MSNBC Friday night.
But he did deny that Mr. Cohen was a source for BuzzFeed.
“He has nothing do do with the writing of the story,” Mr. Davis told the network. “He didn’t initiate the story. It was done by independent reporting.So the story stands on its own.”
Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, praised the special counsel for disputing the BuzzFeed story. He also called on the Justice Department to prosecute anyone involved in leaning the story.
“I ask the press to take heed that their hysterical desire to destroy this president has gone too far,” he wrote on Twitter. “They pursued this without critical analysis all day. #FAKENEWS.”
Politicians were relatively mum Friday night, a sharp contrast from earlier in the day when several top Democrats, including Rep. Ted Lieu of California, demanded the president be impeached based on the BuzzFeed story.
Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama Democrat, was one of the few who commented late Friday.
“I know folks have been all a “Twitter” about the Buzzfeed story, but this is why I have cautioned folks about stories like this. Mueller is the consummate professional. Let him finish the job,” Mr. Jones said on Twitter.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel slammed Buzzfeed for having an anti-Trump bias dating back to the publication of the dossier of salacious, unproven partisan allegations about the president.
“The entire premise of this story, which received wall-to-wall coverage, was based on ‘evidence’ the reporters admitted they never even saw,” she tweeted. “Who could’ve predicted that the publishers of the phony dossier would get this wrong, too?”
— Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.
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