Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office was unaware that it would be a central part of the bombshell BuzzFeed report Thursday on President Donald Trump and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen when it was initially asked to comment, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
That’s apparently why the office did not comment until after the report was published — and then said in a rare public statement that information in the article was “not accurate,” according to the Post, citing unnamed insiders.
BuzzFeed is standing by its story, which said that Cohen had been directed by the president to lie to Congress about how long Trump was involved in negotiations for a Trump Tower project in Moscow during his presidential campaign. The story triggered calls for Trump’s resignation or impeachment.
Mueller’s office declined to comment when contacted by a BuzzFeed reporter, according to the newspaper. The reporter “made no reference” to Mueller’s office specifically or to “evidence that Mueller’s investigators had uncovered,” according to the Post.
The Post reported that Mueller spokesman Peter Carr told others that he would have discouraged the reporters from pursuing the story had he known it would say that Cohen had told Mueller that Trump directed him to lie — or that Mueller learned of the situation through interviews with Trump Organization witnesses, and from company texts and emails.
After the story appeared, Carr said in a statement that BuzzFeed’s “description of specific statements” to Mueller and “characterization of documents and testimony” obtained by Mueller “are not accurate.”
Cohen has refused to “confirm or deny” the BuzzFeed report. The “story stands on its own,” Cohen’s legal adviser Lanny Davis said Friday on MSNBC before Carr’s statement was made public. Davis emphasized that Cohen did not “initiate” the story.
BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith said in a statement Friday that the publication stood by its reporting and urged Mueller to “make clear what he’s disputing.”
In an updated statement Saturday, BuzzFeed said: “As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate.”