Less than 24 hours after BuzzFeed News dropped a report alleging President Donald Trump had directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office disputed the story as "not accurate." Currently, the special counsel's office is leading an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and allegations of collusion with the Trump campaign. In fact, the ongoing nature of the investigation makes Mueller's rejection of BuzzFeed News' explosive report rather unprecedented.
"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, a spokesperson for the special counsel's office, said in a statement released Friday. Mueller's office rarely comments on news stories or issues statements regarding its active investigations and so this statement is rather unprecedented. However, as Business Insider pointed out, the office did once note in a court filing that it found much of the reporting on the Russian investigation had been inaccurate or misleading.
In response to Mueller's statement, Ben Smith, BuzzFeed News' editor-in-chief, said the outlet was standing by its reporting. "We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he's disputing," he said. The news outlet had, among other things, alleged that President Trump had directed his former personal attorney to lie to Congress in an effort to hide his reported involvement in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election.
Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani welcomed the statement from the special counsel's office late Friday and urged the news media to take note. "I commend Bob Mueller's office for correcting the BuzzFeed false story that Pres. Trump encouraged Cohen to lie," he tweeted. "I ask the press to take heed that their hysterical desire to destroy this President has gone too far. They pursued this without critical analysis all day."
He then called on the Department of Justice to "reveal" the two federal law enforcement officials cited as unnamed sources in BuzzFeed News' report, calling them the "leakers." Giuliani also urged House Democrats to hold off launching investigations into the president until the special counsel's office had filed its report. "There may be nothing to legitimately investigate," he said.
On Saturday, Giuliani continued to slam the report, arguing it was proof that both "fake news" and the so-called Deep State were real. "The false BuzzFeed story shows that
#FAKENEWS is real and so is the Deep State," he tweeted. "Both are dangerous to our rights. Maybe those who can still think rationally despite their illness (Trump Derangement Syndrome) will tone back their misplaced hatred. It's hurting them big time."
While the statement from the special counsel's office is certainly challenging aspects of, if not the core of, BuzzFeed News' initial report, questions remain. Although the fact that Mueller's team issued a statement at all should be taken seriously, the special counsel's office did not specify exactly what in BuzzFeed's description it found to be "not accurate."