White House

Special Counsel Labels Bombshell BuzzFeed Report ‘Not Accurate’ in Rare Statement

Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill in 2012. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

A spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller took the unusual step Friday of publicly correcting an inaccurate BuzzFeed News report that accused President Trump of suborning perjury.

“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 spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement to BuzzFeed.

The statement was issued in response to a bombshell report, which cited two law enforcement officials and alleged Trump directed his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about when exactly plans to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow concluded.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress after admitting that his discussions with Russian officials regarding the construction of a Moscow Trump Tower continued until June 2016 and did not conclude in January of that year, as he previously testified before lawmakers. Cohen also admittedly lied to Congress about the extent of then-candidate Trump’s involvement in those discussions, many of which involved senior Kremlin officials.

According to the Buzzfeed report, Mueller’s team first learned that Trump directed Cohen to lie from  “multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents,” a finding Cohen later confirmed during interrogation.

Hours after the report’s publication, discrepancies emerged between the sourcing described by the report’s coauthors, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier.

Cormier conceded during a Friday morning CNN interview that he had not personally viewed documents that indicated Trump directed Cohen to lie, but rather had those documents described to him by multiple sources. Hours later, Leopold told MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson that he and Cormier had “seen documents and been briefed.”

Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith stood by the report when asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper Friday evening whether he believed it was still credible given Mueller’s statement.

“We’re really confident in these specific sources and in the story the reporters told,” Smith said.

The statement issued Friday represents just the second time that Mueller’s office publicly has publicly disputed the media’s coverage of the investigation.

The first instance occurred in April, when McClatchy reported that Cohen travelled to Prague in the summer of 2016 to meet with a Russian official. When contacted, Mueller’s office would not address the content of the report directly but issued a general warning about inaccurate depictions of the investigation and its findings.

“What I have been telling all reporters is that many stories about our investigation have been inaccurate. Be very cautious about any source that claims to have knowledge about our investigation and dig deep into what they claim before reporting on it,” Mueller’s spokesperson told the Daily Caller. “If another outlet reports something, don’t run with it unless you have your own sourcing to back it up.”

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