Mueller’s office refutes news report that Trump asked lawyer to lie to Congress

The report had alleged, citing two federal law enforcement officials, that the president had instructed his lawyer Cohen to lie about the Moscow project during his testimony to Congress and that earlier, as a candidate, asked him to plan a visit for him to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the media, ahead of his departure to Dover, Delaware, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas(REUTERS)
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the media, ahead of his departure to Dover, Delaware, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas(REUTERS)
Published on Jan 19, 2019 11:24 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

In a rare development, the office of US special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 polls, disputed a BuzzFeed news report that alleged President Donald Trump had directed his one-time lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to the Congress about a Trump Tower project in Moscow.

The first such denial by Mueller’s office was cheered by the president, his aides and supporters who claimed vindication of their long-standing complaint about hostile media coverage, but it also raised questions if all other previous news reports about and related to the probe were accurate then.

“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,” Peter Carr, spokesperson for Muller said in a statement that came almost 24 hours after the article was posted online late Thursday,

The report had alleged, citing two federal law enforcement officials, that the president had instructed Cohen to lie about the Moscow project during his testimony to Congress and that earlier, as a candidate, Trump had asked the lawyer to plan a visit for him to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The publication had gone on to allege that the special counsel knew of the president’s instruction to Cohen to lie through interviews with Trump Organization individuals, company emails, texts and other documents. Also, that Cohen acknowledged it in his interviews with Mueller’s office.

The publication of the report had sent shockwaves as it was variously described as “explosive” and bombshell report” by other media outlets, some of whom however, pointed out either that they were not able to confirm the revelations independently and others ran it with reactions from lawmakers.

Calling it one of the most serious instance of alleged obstruction of justice by the president, Democratic lawmakers vowed to investigate it — “get to the bottom of it”, as one of them put it. The president “may have suborned perjury”, another leading Democrat wrote on Twitter.

The White House had denied the allegations and called the report “ridiculous”. Trump pointed to Cohen’s credibility problem — the one-time lawyer had pleaded guilty to lying and was sentenced to 3 years for it and other charges in November. And the president’s attorney Rudy Giuliani called the report “categorically false”.

Their response to the statement from the special counsel Friday evening was predictably robust. The president retweeted told-you-so posts decrying the report as “fake news”, before sending a tweet himself: “Fake News is truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

And Saturday morning the president asked if the knocked down report should cast a shadow on the the entire media. “Many people are saying that the Mainstream Media will have a very hard time restoring credibility because of the way they have treated me over the past 3 years (including the election lead-up), as highlighted by the disgraceful Buzzfeed (sic, the name is BuzzFeed) story & the even more disgraceful coverage!”

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