At least two congressional committees have vowed to investigate the president after BuzzFeed News published a bombshell report Thursday night alleging Donald Trump instructed his then-personal attorney to lie to Congress. Those potential investigations are now fueling a conversation around whether Trump can be impeached for telling Michael Cohen to lie under oath, if the report were found to be true.
Bustle has reached out to both the White House and the Trump Organization for comment. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, has also moved to dismiss BuzzFeed News' report. "If you believe Cohen I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge," he initially said, per The Washington Post's Philip Rucker. On Friday, more than 12 hours after the BuzzFeed News report was published, Giuliani issued a denial. "Any suggestion — from any source — that the president counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false," he said, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Chris Megerian. "Today’s claims are just more made-up lies born of Michael Cohen’s malice and desperation, in an effort to reduce his sentence."
But the report from BuzzFeed News doesn't rely on Cohen as a source. Rather, two unnamed federal law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Trump "directed" Cohen, his former personal attorney, to lie to Congress about a Moscow-based real estate deal that the Trump Organization reportedly was negotiating during the 2016 election.
According to BuzzFeed News, Trump received regular updates about his company's negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow even as he told voters he didn't "deal" in Russia and had "no businesses" there. The news outlet also reported that Cohen had proposed Trump visit Russia during the 2016 campaign and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to get talks for the real-estate deal rolling. "Make it happen," BuzzFeed News' sources alleged Trump said of the proposed plan.
BuzzFeed News has reported that their sources claimed Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that, after the election was over, Trump "personally instructed" him to lie and say negotiations had ended months before their actual wrap date. According to BuzzFeed News' report, the aim was to "obscure Trump's involvement." But according to BuzzFeed News, Mueller's team had actually learned of Trump's instructions to Cohen — reportedly through interviews with witnesses and Trump Organization internal emails, texts, and a "cache of other documents" — prior to Cohen's acknowledgement.
While BuzzFeed News reporter Anthony Cormier told CNN on Friday that he had not personally seen the internal Trump Organization texts, emails, and documents his sources cited as corroborated evidence, he noted that neither the White House nor Trump's personal lawyers wanted to deny the allegations on the record to BuzzFeed News. What's more, Cormier said he stood behind his sources and reporting. "I am rock solid," he said of his reporting. "My sourcing on this goes beyond the two that are on the record. This 100 percent happened."
Both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee have vowed to investigate the allegations, according to the Associated Press. "We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler tweeted Friday. "Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime." He wrote that the House Judiciary Committee would "get to the bottom of it."
St. John's law professor John Q. Barrett, who served as an associate counsel for the investigation into the Iran–Contra affair, shared Nadler's view. He told The Atlantic that "assuming all the evidence adds up" and Trump did direct Cohen to lie, "it's evidence of conspiracy, of obstruction of justice, of suborning perjury." Or more simply, "it's impeachment material," Barrett said.
This article has been updated.