President Donald Trump instructed his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to a report published Thursday by BuzzFeed News.
Friday evening, the special counsel’s office issued a rare public statement disputing the accuracy of the report.
Update 8:50 p.m. EST Jan. 18: Ben Smith, BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief, told MSNBC that he stands by the reporting and is asking for the Special Counsel to clarify what he is disputing.
Update 7:40 p.m. EST Jan. 18: Buzzfeed News tweeted Friday evening that a spokesman for the special counsel is disputing the characterization of documents and testimony as “not accurate.”
The Associated Press noted that the rare public statement didn’t cite any specific errors.
Peter Carr, spokesman for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, said:
“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.”
Update 1:25 p.m. EST Jan. 18: In a statement obtained Friday by CNN, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said Cohen is a “convicted criminal and a liar,” and pointed to his guilty plea for lying to officials as evidence that the allegations in the BuzzFeed report have no basis in fact.
“Any suggestion -- from any source -- that the President counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false,” Giuliani said. “Today’s claims are just more make-up lies born of Michael Cohen’s malice and desperation, in an effort to reduce his sentence.”
Giuliani had earlier dismissed the report, telling The Washington Post, “If you believe Cohen, I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Update 10:10 a.m. EST Jan. 18: Trump accused Cohen of “lying to reduce his jail time” after a BuzzFeed News report claimed he directed his former personal attorney to lie to Congress.
It’s not the first time the president has accused Cohen of lying.
Trump slammed Cohen in August after the attorney pleaded guilty to eight charges in federal court, including tax evasion and a campaign finance violation related to payments made to a pair of women who have claimed they had affairs with Trump years before he was elected to office.
Cohen, who once famously claimed he’d take a bullet for Trump, broke with the president last year after agreeing to cooperate with federal investigators probing allegations of Russian election meddling and its possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials. Prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said last month that Cohen has provided “credible information” related to the probe.
A judge in December sentenced Cohen to three years in prison in connection to his August guilty plea and another guilty plea for lying to Congress
Cohen is scheduled to appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7, a little more than a month after the Democrats took the House majority.
Update 9:20 a.m. EST Jan. 18: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, of New York, said in a tweet Friday that “directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.”
“We know that the President has engaged in a long patter of obstruction,” Nadler wrote. “The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.”
Update 7:23 a.m. EST Jan. 18: The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on BuzzFeed’s report, according to The Washington Post.
Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen’s adviser, issued a statement to MSNBC. "Out of respect for Mr. Mueller’s and the Office of Special Counsel’s investigation, Mr. Cohen declined to respond to the questions asked by the reporters and so do I.”
Update 4:14 a.m. EST Jan. 18: Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, tweeted that it is about time for special counsel Robert Mueller “to show his cards.”
Update 1:13 a.m. EST Jan. 18: Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted that if the BuzzFeed report is true -- “and proof must be examined” -- then Congress must initiate impeachment hearings.
Update 12:34 a.m. EST Jan. 18: Democratic leaders demanded an investigation in the wake of a BuzzFeed News report that President Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen, his former attorney, to lie to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, The Washington Post reported.
BuzzFeed, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials, reported that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and that Cohen regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow project — even as Trump said he had no business dealings with Russia.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's office, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to Trump and Trump campaign officials, learned about the plans through interviews with multiple witnesses, Trump Organization emails, text messages and other documents, Buzzfeed reported.
“The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date,” tweeted Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”
“If the @Buzzfeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached," tweeted Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.