russia investigation

Mueller Disputes BuzzFeed Report That Trump Ordered Cohen to Perjure Himself

An unexpected public statement from the special counsel. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Friday night, the special counsel issued a rare public statement, disputing the BuzzFeed News report that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build a tower in Moscow. “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,” said Peter Carr, spokesman for the Mueller investigation. It appears to be the first time the special counsel has publicly contested a news account, casting doubt on a major collusion break that had some Democrats talking potential obstruction of justice charges.

On Twitter, journalists weighed the details of the Mueller investigation’s decision to break radio silence and comment on the report — almost 24 hours after its initial publication in which they issued a “no comment.” Reporter Peter Sterne posed three possible options for the contention: There are minor inconsistencies in the report; it’s substantively incorrect; or it
correctly depicts what Cohen told federal prosecutors in a different office, like the Southern District of New York. Ronan Farrow, who broke the story of Trump’s alleged affair with Karen McDougal, tweeted that he “declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly issued orders of that kind.” Additionally, the New York Times claims that a source “familiar with Mr. Cohen’s testimony to the special counsel’s prosecutors said that Mr. Cohen did not state that the president had pressured him to lie to Congress.” BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith announced his confidence in his team’s reporting and requested that Mueller “make clear what he’s disputing.” On CNN, Smith also said that BuzzFeed was not “playing any games with the characterization” of their two federal law enforcement sources.

On Friday morning, House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff announced that the committee was “already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters.” (As of publication, Schiff has not given a statement on the special counsel’s update.) Before the Mueller team’s surprise announcement, Democrats were discussing “impeachment” en masse for the first time in a while, with at least four members of Congress using the word on Thursday and Friday — talk that will likely die down pending further investigation of the BuzzFeed account.

When the special counsel published its comment, Trump began retweeting takedowns of of BuzzFeed News. As New York’s Olivia Nuzzi noted, “Whatever ends up being the case about the BuzzFeed story, it sure is interesting to see the president and all of his supporters so eager to accept as fact the statement put out by the special counsel’s office.” In this case of rare camaraderie, it appears that the enemy of the “enemy of the people” is his friend.

Mueller Disputes Report That Trump Had Cohen Perjure Himself
russia investigation

Mueller Disputes BuzzFeed Report That Trump Ordered Cohen to Perjure Himself

An unexpected public statement from the special counsel. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Friday night, the special counsel issued a rare public statement, disputing the BuzzFeed News report that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build a tower in Moscow. “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,” said Peter Carr, spokesman for the Mueller investigation. It appears to be the first time the special counsel has publicly contested a news account, casting doubt on a major collusion break that had some Democrats talking potential obstruction of justice charges.

On Twitter, journalists weighed the details of the Mueller investigation’s decision to break radio silence and comment on the report — almost 24 hours after its initial publication in which they issued a “no comment.” Reporter Peter Sterne posed three possible options for the contention: There are minor inconsistencies in the report; it’s substantively incorrect; or it
correctly depicts what Cohen told federal prosecutors in a different office, like the Southern District of New York. Ronan Farrow, who broke the story of Trump’s alleged affair with Karen McDougal, tweeted that he “declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly issued orders of that kind.” Additionally, the New York Times claims that a source “familiar with Mr. Cohen’s testimony to the special counsel’s prosecutors said that Mr. Cohen did not state that the president had pressured him to lie to Congress.” BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith announced his confidence in his team’s reporting and requested that Mueller “make clear what he’s disputing.” On CNN, Smith also said that BuzzFeed was not “playing any games with the characterization” of their two federal law enforcement sources.

On Friday morning, House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff announced that the committee was “already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters.” (As of publication, Schiff has not given a statement on the special counsel’s update.) Before the Mueller team’s surprise announcement, Democrats were discussing “impeachment” en masse for the first time in a while, with at least four members of Congress using the word on Thursday and Friday — talk that will likely die down pending further investigation of the BuzzFeed account.

When the special counsel published its comment, Trump began retweeting takedowns of of BuzzFeed News. As New York’s Olivia Nuzzi noted, “Whatever ends up being the case about the BuzzFeed story, it sure is interesting to see the president and all of his supporters so eager to accept as fact the statement put out by the special counsel’s office.” In this case of rare camaraderie, it appears that the enemy of the “enemy of the people” is his friend.

Mueller Disputes Report That Trump Had Cohen Perjure Himself
THE FEED

China has been using DNA technology provided by a Massachusetts company to crack down on Uighur Muslims

China wants to make the country’s Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, more subservient to the Communist Party. It has detained up to a million people in what China calls “re-education” camps, drawing condemnation from human rights groups and a threat of sanctions from the Trump administration.


Collecting genetic material is a key part of China’s campaign, according to human rights groups and Uighur activists. They say a comprehensive DNA database could be used to chase down any Uighurs who resist conforming to the campaign.


To bolster their DNA capabilities, scientists affiliated with China’s police used equipment made by Thermo Fisher, a Massachusetts company. For comparison with Uighur DNA, they also relied on genetic material from people around the world that was provided by Kenneth Kidd, a prominent Yale University geneticist.


On Wednesday, Thermo Fisher said it would no longer sell its equipment in Xinjiang, the part of China where the campaign to track Uighurs is mostly taking place. The company said separately in an earlier statement to The New York Times that it was working with American officials to figure out how its technology was being used.

It’s taken almost a month for the labor market to recover from the record shutdown

JUST IN: Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by more than expected to a four-week low, a sign the labor market is regaining its footing following the longest-ever government shutdown https://t.co/hEaqSdspHa pic.twitter.com/MPRtCjKjls
@business

Meet John C. Fry, the newest character in the investigations into Trump’s circle

Federal prosecutors say an IRS investigator in California has admitted leaking confidential details of financial transactions by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to Michael Avenatti, lawyer for Stormy Daniels.


John C. Fry has been charged in federal court with searching for and disseminating Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), reports filed by banks when they note potentially suspicious transactions.


Federal officials say they found telephone records that indicate Fry placed a phone call from his personal cell phone to that of Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti the day before Avenatti released details of Cohen’s financial transactions, and the day after.


According to the complaint, he conducted numerous searches related to Cohen, and downloaded five SARs, including one related to a bank account for Essential Consultants.

Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee, pictured right, apologizes for picture in an Auburn yearbook in which he is dressed as a Confederate solider: “With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that participating in that was insensitive and I’ve come to regret it.”

Photo: Auburn University Glomerata

The big dollar targets for Democrats just so happen to include the four major states that went to Obama in 2012 and to Trump in 2016

.@prioritiesUSA, the largest Dem super PAC, is launching an early $100M presidential effort in FL, WI, MI, and PA, @guycecil tells reporters in DC this AM. Phase two, before the end of this year, will expand into NV, NH, AZ, NC, and GA.
@gdebenedetti
bernie sanders
bernie sanders
Bernie Sanders’s Two-Pronged Attack on American Exceptionalism
Bernie’s foreign and domestic policies may have more in common than you think, including a particular appeal to young people.
crime
crime
It’s Time for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to Resign
The former federal prosecutor illegally allowed billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein to make a plea deal without notifying victims.

One of the more voracious readers in recent presidential history, Obama will not have a traditional presidential library

The four-building, 19-acre “working center for citizenship,” set to be built in a public park on the South Side of Chicago, will include a 235-foot-high “museum tower,” a two-story event space, an athletic center, a recording studio, a winter garden, even a sledding hill.


In a break with precedent, there will be no research library on site, and none of Mr. Obama’s official presidential records. Instead, the Obama Foundation will pay to digitize the roughly 30 million pages of unclassified paper records from the administration so they can be made available online.


And the entire complex, including the museum chronicling Mr. Obama’s presidency, will be run by the foundation, a private nonprofit entity, rather than by the National Archives and Records Administration, the federal agency that administers the libraries and museums for all presidents going back to Herbert Hoover.

A GOP challenger approaches New Hampshire

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday he expects to make a springtime trip to New Hampshire as he weighs a 2020 challenge to Donald Trump — and accused the Republican National Committee of going to extraordinary lengths to shield the president from a potentially draining primary.


“Typically they try to be fair arbiters of a process and I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve been involved in the Republican Party for most of my life. It’s unprecedented. And in my opinion it’s not the way we should be going about our politics,” Hogan, a popular two-term Maryland governor, said in an interview with POLITICO. “It’s very undemocratic and to say, ‘We’re in some cases not going to allow a debate, we may not have a primary…’”


The 62-year-old Hogan, who won reelection in liberal Maryland last year, has openly flirted with a primary challenge in recent weeks. The governor used his January inauguration speech to implicitly go after the president and to raise the specter of impeachment. He later met with conservative columnist and prominent Trump critic Bill Kristol, who has been seeking out a 2020 Republican primary challenger.

More chilling details about the white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant who appeared to be planning a killing spree

At his detention hearing, prosecutors said that Hasson spent $14,000 a year on arms and equipment to prepare for an attack and that he read manifestos of several mass attackers, including the Unabomber and the Virginia Tech shooter.


Hasson called for “focused violence” to “establish a white homeland,” prosecutors said in court filings. It’s unclear whether Hasson had a specific date for an attack, but the government said he had been stockpiling weapons for at least two years.


During the raid this month, law enforcement officers seized 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from his residence in the suburbs just north of Washington.


As recently as Jan. 17, Hasson created a list of “traitors” and targets in a spreadsheet while reviewing various broadcast news sites from his work computer, court filings show. The list included people prosecutors believe to be Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), CNN reporter Don Lemon and nearly two dozen others.

Official condemnation for the sordid role Alexander Acosta played in the Jeffrey Epstein child-sex case

A judge ruled Thursday that federal prosecutors — among them, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta — broke federal law when they signed a plea agreement with a wealthy, politically connected sex trafficker and concealed it from more than 30 of his underage victims.


U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra, in a 33-page opinion, said that the evidence he reviewed showed that Jeffrey Epstein had been operating an international sex operation in which he and others recruited underage girls — not only in Florida — but from overseas, in violation of federal law.


“Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him.,’’ wrote Marra, who is based in Palm Beach County. “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.’’

Instead of prosecuting Epstein under federal sex trafficking laws, Acosta, then the U.S. attorney in Miami, helped negotiate a non-prosecution agreement that gave Epstein and his co-conspirators immunity from federal prosecution. Epstein, who lived in a Palm Beach mansion, was allowed to quietly plead guilty in state court to two prostitution charges and served just 13 months in the county jail. His accomplices, some of whom have never been identified, were never charged.

How will the new Democratic primary calendar change the race?

elections
elections
New Election Ordered in North Carolina House District Over Possible Fraud
Republican Mark Harris, who won by just 905 votes, called for a new election after his son testified that he’d warned him about a shady operative.

A new Congressional election is on the way in North Carolina

BREAKING: North Carolina orders new election in undecided US House race after hearing evidence it was tainted by ballot fraud.
@AP

Judge imposes strict gag order on Roger Stone, who likes to talk

ABJ: “So, no, Mr. Stone. I’m not giving you another chance. I have serious doubts about whether you have learned any lesson at all.”

“From this moment on, the defendant may not speak publicly about the investigation or the case or any of the participants”
@awprokop

A worst New York nightmare comes true — though reportedly it was wood under the tracks, not the track itself

This guy was crowd-funding his legal bills

Judge Jackson also just read from Roger Stone’s financial filings, according to which he makes $47,000 a month as a consultant
@rachelweinerwp
international intrigue
international intrigue
Maduro and Venezuela’s Opposition Prepare for Dramatic Confrontation
Tensions are rising ahead of a Saturday deadline to let humanitarian aid into the country.
technology
technology
Some American Airlines Seats Have Built-in Cameras
The airline says they’ve never been used, so everything is fine.

Roger Stone goes with the “I’m an idiot” defense in trying to explain an Instagram post that juxtaposed the judge overseeing his case with what appeared to be crosshairs

Roger Stone on the stand now: “I believe I abused the order for which I am sorry. I am kicking myself over my own stupidity. I offer no excuse for it, no justification. It was the outgrowth of a lapse in judgement.”
@SamanthaJoRoth
the top line
the top line
What Killed the Biggest Passenger Plane Ever Flown?
And why the Airbus A380 could be revived in the future.
transit woes
transit woes
The Battle Over High-Speed Rail Money Is Part of Trump’s War on California
Trump’s focus on the California high-speed rail project curtailed by Governor Gavin Newsom is about more than his desire to recoup some federal money.

The Massachusetts lawsuit against the Sackler family keeps uncovering more and more damning information

In May 1997, the year after Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin, its head of sales and marketing sought input on a key decision from Dr. Richard Sackler, a member of the billionaire family that founded and controls the company. Michael Friedman told Sackler that he didn’t want to correct the false impression among doctors that OxyContin was weaker than morphine, because the myth was boosting prescriptions — and sales.


“It would be extremely dangerous at this early stage in the life of the product,” Friedman wrote to Sackler, “to make physicians think the drug is stronger or equal to morphine. … We are well aware of the view held by many physicians that oxycodone [the active ingredient in OxyContin] is weaker than morphine. I do not plan to do anything about that.”


“I agree with you,” Sackler responded. “Is there a general agreement, or are there some holdouts?”

2020 presidential election
2020 presidential election
The New Democratic Primary Calendar Makes Voters of Color Even More Important
A changing calendar for 2020 means that soon after Iowa and New Hampshire very diverse states will dominate the calendar, and the contest.

For the first time in Gallup’s polling, a majority of black respondents say black-white relations are somewhat or very bad

Sean Spicer switches sides

Surprise, surprise: Sean Spicer is now officially a member of the mainstream media. The former White House press secretary has signed a contract to serve as a special correspondent for syndicated newsmagazine show Extra.


“When they pitched this to me, I said, ‘Yeah, I love the idea,’” Spicer told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday.


Spicer, who famously tangled with television reporters during his stint in the White House, is beginning with a special series that focuses on the personal lives and views of D.C. insiders, including some of his former Trump administration colleagues. 

when to walk away
when to walk away
Don’t Buy the Folding Phone
Don’t pay Samsung $2,000 to help them field-test a first-generation device.