Chuck Ross, DCNF
- The office of special counsel Robert Mueller disputed a BuzzFeed report claiming Michael Cohen told prosecutors President Donald Trump instructed him to lie to Congress about Russia.
- One of BuzzFeed’s reporters claimed to have seen documents corroborating its bombshell report.
- BuzzFeed is declining to comment on “who saw what and when.”
BuzzFeed News is declining to comment on what documents its reporters might have reviewed for a now-disputed report that Michael Cohen claimed he was instructed by President Donald Trump to lie to Congress about Russia.
“In the interest of protecting … sources, we aren’t going to speak further on the details of who saw what and when, beyond what’s in the reporting,” BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Saturday.
Mittenthal was responding to questions about BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold’s claims Friday to have seen documents that support the outlet’s bombshell reporting about Cohen’s interactions with the special counsel.
“We have seen documents. We have been briefed on documents. We are very confident in our reporting,” Leopold said in an interview on MSNBC to discuss a report he and co-author Anthony Cormier published Thursday night.
“We have seen documents. We have been briefed on documents. We are very confident in our reporting,” BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold, who co-wrote bombshell new report, says. pic.twitter.com/5RXOx8rvo0
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 18, 2019
According to Leopold and his co-author Anthony Cormier, two law enforcement officials claimed Cohen told the special counsel Trump instructed him to lie to Congress in 2017 about his efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Leopold and Cormier reported documents, including emails, and witness testimony corroborated Cohen’s alleged comments to the special counsel.
The report generated significant buzz Friday, with numerous Democrats calling for an investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice or suborned perjury from Cohen. The report was viewed with skepticism by others who noted BuzzFeed did not provide dates, quotes or other specifics about Cohen’s testimony or his interactions with Trump.
The story suffered a devastating blow Friday night when a spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller issued a rare on-the-record statement that undercut the core claims in the report.
“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,” spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
BuzzFeed responded Friday night by saying it was standing by the story. A source directly familiar with BuzzFeed’s reporting told TheDCNF on Saturday the outlet expects the original story to be vindicated. That source declined to speak on the record about whether BuzzFeed expects the story to be verified or why the special counsel would dispute the story if it was accurate.
Editor Ben Smith also called on Mueller to specify which parts of the report are in dispute.
But The New York Times and Washington Post poured more cold water on BuzzFeed’s scoop Friday night by citing knowledgable sources who claimed the Mueller statement was a full-throated rebuttal to BuzzFeed’s core assertions.
Leopold’s comments raise numerous questions about BuzzFeed’s reporting. What did the documents say? Does he still have them? Were they forgeries? When were they created? When did he see them? Did he actually see them?
A spokesman for BuzzFeed said the outlet is “continuing to report and hopefully will have something more we can say soon.”
“Anthony and Jason have been reporting this story with the help of a group of colleagues for two years, and have reviewed a huge volume of documents and talked to dozens of sources across that period, as their reporting has indicated,” Mittenthal told TheDCNF.
Carr, the special counsel’s spokesman, declined to provide additional insight into Friday’s statement.
In a separate interview on Friday, BuzzFeed’s Cormier said he had not seen the documents referred to in BuzzFeed’s story.
“I’ve not seen it personally, but the folks that we’ve talked to, the two officials we’ve spoken to, are fully, 100 percent read in to that aspect of the special counsel’s investigation,” Cormier told CNN.
Cormier did not say Leopold had seen the documents.
Cormier said his two sources had access to “a number of different documents,” including notes from FBI interviews. He also asserted his sources had provided “rock-solid information” and that what the report alleged “100 percent happened.”
Asked by Mediaite about Cormier’s comments, Leopold said: “Anthony said HE had not personally seen the documents.”
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