UPDATED: WASHINGTON — BuzzFeed News released a statement Saturday standing by their Thursday report that Donald Trump directed his then-attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow after the Mueller team disputed the report Friday.
“As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate,” wrote BuzzFeed’s director of communications Matt Mittenthal in a statement. “We remain confident in what we’ve reported, and will share more as we are able.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s spokesman issued a rare statement disputing BuzzFeed’s report Friday.
“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, Mueller’s spokesman.
It was unclear exactly what Mueller’s office was disputing, but BuzzFeed reported that the special counsel learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie through “interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages and a cache of other documents.” It cited two federal law enforcement sources.
The BuzzFeed story, posted on Thursday evening, was quickly picked up by cable news outlets and, by Friday morning, by congressional Democrats who vowed to investigate further. Throughout the day, news channels, particularly CNN and MSNBC, queried legal experts and pundits about the potential fallout if the claims proved to be true, including a charge of obstruction of justice against Trump and the potential for Democrats to start impeachment proceedings.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani called the claims “categorically false,” and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also denied the report.
BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith wrote on Twitter that “we stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”
Other outlets did not confirm the story on their own, and Ronan Farrow wrote, “I can’t speak to BuzzFeed’s sourcing, but for what’s it’s worth, I declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly issued orders of that kind.”
He added, “Note that the general thrust of Cohen lying to Congress ‘in accordance with’ or ‘to support and advance’ Trump’s agenda (per Cohen’s legal memo) is not in dispute. The source disputed the further, more specific idea that Trump issued — and memorialized — repeated direct instructions.”
Trump seized on the statement from Mueller’s office, writing, “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!”
Later, he tweeted, “Fake News is truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”