19 Jan Special Counsel Disputes BuzzFeed Report That Alleged Trump Directed Cohen to Lie to Congress
The statement came nearly a day after BuzzFeed published the story, citing two anonymous law-enforcement sources, that set off a firestorm in Washington. The chairmen of two House investigative panels had said earlier Friday they would probe the report’s allegations.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), who leads the House Intelligence Committee, said the panel would “do what’s necessary to find out if it is true.” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that the panel’s “job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.”
Mr. Trump in a tweet Friday morning suggested Mr. Cohen was “lying to reduce his jail time,” but didn’t specify what he believed his former lawyer was lying about. Mr. Cohen was sentenced last month to three years in prison.
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, had responded to the story by questioning Mr. Cohen’s credibility. “Haven’t checked it out but if you believe Cohen I can get you a good all-cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge,” Mr. Giuliani said via text message.
On Friday, Mr. Giuliani said in a statement: “Any suggestion—from any source—that the president counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false.” He called the allegation that Mr. Trump had directed Mr. Cohen to lie to Congress “just more made-up lies born of Michael Cohen’s malice and desperation.”
The president repeatedly has denied collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice.
BuzzFeed News reported late Thursday that Mr. Cohen had told Mr. Mueller that Mr. Trump had directed him to tell Congress in his 2017 testimony that negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow had ended in January 2016, when in fact they had continued through June of that year—a month after Mr. Trump effectively won the GOP nomination.
BuzzFeed also reported that Mr. Mueller had evidence corroborating Mr. Trump’s direction of Mr. Cohen, including interviews and documents.
Late Friday, responding to the statement from the special counsel’s office, BuzzFeed said it was confident in its story. “We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,” Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, said on Twitter.
Michael Cohen: Full Coverage
A sentencing statement by Mr. Cohen’s attorneys last month suggested that the former Trump lawyer had acted at Mr. Trump’s behest when he lied to Congress—an allegation that wasn’t repeated when Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court later that month.
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Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, was sentenced to three years in prison on Dec. 12. In court, he said his blind loyalty to President Trump led him ‘to take a path of darkness.’ (Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)
The attorneys wrote in that filing that their client’s false statements to Congress were “intended to benefit Client-1, in accordance with Client-1’s directives,” referring to Mr. Trump.
Yet when Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, he said he had lied “to be consistent with [Mr. Trump’s] political messaging and out of loyalty to” Mr. Trump, and made no mention of any directive from the president.
Mr. Cohen is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7, though his testimony isn’t expected to focus on what he has discussed with Mr. Mueller, according to a person close to Mr. Cohen.
Suborning perjury is a crime that constitutes obstruction of justice. William Barr, Mr. Trump’s attorney general nominee, said in his confirmation hearing earlier this week that “a president persuading a person to commit perjury” was obstruction.
Lanny Davis, a spokesman for Mr. Cohen, declined to comment on the BuzzFeed report.
Corrections & Amplifications
Chris Murphy is a U.S. senator from Connecticut. An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to him as a U.S. representative. (Jan. 18, 2018)
Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com and Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com
Appeared in the January 19, 2019, print edition as ‘Mueller’s Office Disputes Trump-Cohen Story.’