BuzzFeed News reported Thursday evening that Trump had personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a real estate project in Moscow. The report cited two federal law enforcement sources and said the special counsel’s office had learned of Trump’s alleged directive from multiple witnesses, Trump Organization emails, text messages and other documents.
But a spokesman for the special counsel’s office issued a rare comment on Friday evening disputing the report.
“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,” the spokesman said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
The special counsel’s office had previously declined to comment on the report, according to BuzzFeed’s original article.
The BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, wrote on Twitter: “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 statement from the special counsel’s office is notable for its very existence. Since he was appointed in May 2017, Mueller has rarely been seen or heard from in public, communicating instead through a steady stream of indictments.
Trump’s longtime personal attorney and “fixer”, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in December, after pleading guilty to crimes that included lying to Congress about the Moscow real estate deal.
At the time of the sentencing, Mueller’s office asked the judge to give consideration to the fact that Cohen was cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation.
The allegation that Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress – a potential felony – highlighted the significance of the Republican party’s loss of the House in the midterm elections.
The newly installed Democratic chairmen of the House judiciary and intelligence committees, representatives Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler, both declared their intent to investigate, and some elected officials raised the specter of impeachment.
Trump was active on Twitter on Friday evening, retweeting two posts calling the BuzzFeed report “fake news” and “nonsense”. He subsequently tweeted an attack on BuzzFeed.