BREAKING: Inside the Mueller team’s decision to dispute BuzzFeed’s explosive story on Trump and Cohen
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When a BuzzFeed reporter first sought comment on the news outlet’s explosive report that President Trump had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress, the spokesman for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III treated the request as he would almost any other story.
The reporter informed Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, that he and a colleague had “a story coming stating that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump himself to lie to Congress about his negotiations related to the Trump Moscow project,” according to copies of their emails provided by a BuzzFeed spokesman. Importantly, the reporter made no reference to the special counsel’s office specifically or evidence that Mueller’s investigators had uncovered.
The article goes on to state the following:
“We’ll decline to comment,” Carr responded, a familiar refrain for those in the media who cover Mueller’s work.
The innocuous exchange belied the chaos it would produce. When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr’s initial impression, people familiar with the matter said, in that the reporting alleged that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and self-described fixer, “told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie,” and that Mueller’s office learned of the directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
The Washington Post further reported that when Mueller’s team read the story after it was published, they started discussing how to do something they’d never done before – publicly dispute the report, based on evidence of their own investigation, according to two people who spoke with the Post anonymously.
Carr reportedly stated that he would have gone to greater lengths to stop the BuzzFeed reporters from publishing the story “had he known it would allege Cohen had told the special counsel Trump directed him to lie — or that the special counsel was said to have learned this through interviews with Trump Organization witnesses, as well as internal company emails and text messages.”
Must read: Sources tell WaPo that after BuzzFeed published its story, the special counsel’s office reviewed evidence to determine if there were docs or interviews like those described, reaching out to those they thought might have a stake. They found none.https://t.co/1pbFSVfaB4
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 20, 2019
Once the story came out, it could see the extent of the claims, and obviously felt more compelled to correct the record. Then it had to decide on a response, and that took a few hours to put together (which isn’t long for a busy office that’s not exactly known for communication).
— German Lopez (@germanrlopez) January 19, 2019
JUST IN: Inside the Mueller team’s decision to dispute BuzzFeed’s explosive story on Trump and Cohen. A scoop-filled look at how the special counsel came to issue an unprecedented public statement about its work w/ @DevlinBarrett https://t.co/DJlHTyIHoI
— Matt Zapotosky (@mattzap) January 20, 2019
Inside the Mueller team’s decision to dispute BuzzFeed’s explosive story on Trump and Cohen. A scoop-filled look at how the special counsel came to issue an unprecedented public statement about its work @mattzap @devlinbarrett https://t.co/069u0C2qoe
— Sari Horwitz (@SariHorwitz) January 20, 2019
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