BuzzFeed News doubled down yesterday on its defense of its bombshell report from Thursday night which said that President Trump ordered his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
BuzzFeed’s report elicited a rare response from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office which on Friday issued a statement saying that “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.”
But after the special counsel statement was made public, the news outlet stood by its reporting and released a statement Friday night, saying it stood by its reporting and urging Mueller to “make clear what he’s disputing.” Yesterday BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal defended the report again, issuing a second statement saying:
“As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate. We remain confident in what we’ve reported, and will share more as we are able.”
The BuzzFeed News report said Trump met with Cohen at least 10 times to discuss the tower and backed a plan for him to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia to negotiate on the construction of the major Moscow real estate project. The president had maintained many times on the campaign trail that he had no business dealings of any kind in Russia.
When told of the special counsel’s failure to find support for the BuzzFeed story, Mittenthal added:
“Our high-level law enforcement sources, who have helped corroborate months of accurate reporting on the Trump Tower Moscow deal and its aftermath, have told us otherwise. We look forward to further clarification from the Special Counsel in the near future.”
Cohen has cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into obstruction of justice and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. BuzzFeed’s story said Cohen discussed Trump’s order to lie with the special counsel’s staff.
Trump and conservative allies seized upon the controversy surrounding the report.
“It was a total phony story, and I appreciate the special counsel coming out with a statement last night,” Trump told reporters Saturday. “I think that the BuzzFeed piece was a disgrace to our country. It was a disgrace to journalism, and I think also that the coverage by the mainstream media was disgraceful.”
“The entire premise of this story, which received wall-to-wall coverage, was based on ‘evidence’ the reporters admitted they never even saw. Who could’ve predicted that the publishers of the phony dossier would get this wrong, too?” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said.
Cohen adviser Lanny Davis has refused to confirm or deny the BuzzFeed report. He has implied that Cohen would discuss the issue in more detail during his congressional testimony on February 7.