When Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in November, the Mueller team provided a memo saying he had given them “credible” and “useful” information. According to a report from BuzzFeed News, President Trump told his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his intentions to build Trump Tower Moscow, and that Trump had signed off on a plan to visit Russia during the 2016 campaign to meet with Vladimir Putin and expedite the construction process. Sources allege that Trump told Cohen to “Make it happen.”
A full day after the Buzzfeed report came out, the special counsel’s office released a rare statement disputing the story. “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 Mueller investigation spokesperson Peter Carr on Friday night. Buzzfeed then stood by their story, and called on Mueller to identify what its reporters got wrong.
The Buzzfeed report, if it is accurate, provides another high-profile contradiction between the public statements of the Trump camp and the evidence that Mueller is amassing. Throughout the campaign, Trump denied having business interests in Russia, all while he was reportedly working to put a tower in Moscow, a plan that could have brought his company $300 million, and put Vladimir Putin in the building’s $50 million penthouse. Law-enforcement sources told BuzzFeed that, during the campaign, Trump had at least ten face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal.
The report also suggests trouble for the Trump children, as the special counsel allegedly learned about Trump’s order to lie to Congress through “internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.” In 2017, Trump Jr. testified to the Senate Judiciary committee that he was “peripherally aware” of the Trump Tower Moscow plan, and a spokesperson for Ivanka Trump told BuzzFeed that she was only “minimally involved” in the project. However, the report states that Trump’s two children “received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.”
Immediately after the report was published Thursday night, House Democrats began to weigh in. “If the President directed Cohen to lie to Congress, that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop,” tweeted Congressman David Cicilline. “This stunning Trump Tower Moscow story establishes a clear case of Obstruction of Justice, a felony. I’ve lost count now how many times [the president] has engaged in Obstruction of Justice,” added Ted Lieu. “Oh, FYI, the first Article of Impeachment for Richard Nixon was Obstruction of Justice.”
This post has been updated to include the special counsel office’s statement.