Those are the two big questions to follow Mueller’s bombshell statement in response to Buzzfeed’s bombshell report. Here are some of the responses:
From MSNBC Justice & Security Analyst and former Justice Department spokesperson Matthew Miller:
[The investigators] can’t police every story without falling into a confirmation game (and the special counsel’s office has been more extreme on this than most DOJ offices). But the magnitude of this one, including because of the law enforcement sourcing, was different.
You can spend hours parsing the Carr statement, but given how unusual it is for any DOJ office to issue this sort of on the record denial, let alone this office, I suspect it means the story’s core contention that they have evidence Trump told Cohen to lie is fundamentally wrong. There was a lot in the [Buzzfeed] story, and maybe pieces of it are accurate. But I read the statement to say the central piece is not. Can’t see breaking their nearly two year precedent to just quibble over details.
The Times’ Glenn Thrush adds:
This article spoke to specific felony, and an impeachable act that would have dictated his subsequent action and had already triggered a congressional response.
Amazing how much people read into Mueller’s motives simply because he is the one human in DC who knows how to STFU.
The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, a longtime skeptic of the Russia investigation, noted that the special counsel’s office has broadly dismissed reporting about the probe before:
Mueller’s office, in response to the McClatchy Cohen/Prague story, issued a statement declaring that many, many media reports about its investigation have been wrong & urged media outlets to stop reporting stories without independent confirmation
But the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow points out:
Note that the general thrust of Cohen lying to Congress “in accordance with” or “to support and advance” Trump’s agenda (per Cohen’s legal memo) is not in dispute. The source disputed the further, more specific idea that Trump issued—and memorialized—repeated direct instructions.
Some have also speculated that Buzzfeed’s law enforcement sources were from another office other than Mueller’s — but the Washington Post’s report on the statement dismisses that idea:
Inside the Justice Department, the statement was viewed as a huge step, and one that would have been taken only if the special counsel’s office viewed the story as almost entirely incorrect. The special counsel’s office seemed to be disputing every aspect of the story that addressed comments or evidence given to its investigators. …
The story had claimed Cohen had acknowledged to Mueller’s prosecutors that the president directed him to deceive Congress about key facts linking the president to the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. BuzzFeed also said Mueller learned about the directive to lie from “interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
Mueller’s denial, according to people familiar with the matter, aims to make clear that none of those statements in the story are accurate.