Mueller disputes report that Trump ordered lawyer to lie

Michael Cohen (above), Mr Donald Trump's long-time lawyer and fixer, did not state that the President had pressured him to lie to Congress, said a person familiar with Cohen's testimony to the special counsel's prosecutors.
Michael Cohen (above), Mr Donald Trump's long-time lawyer and fixer, did not state that the President had pressured him to lie to Congress, said a person familiar with Cohen's testimony to the special counsel's prosecutors.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON • The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election disputed a report that said President Donald Trump had directed Michael Cohen, his long-time lawyer and fixer, to lie to Congress about his role in negotiations to build a skyscraper in Moscow.

The rare public statement by a spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller challenged the facts of an article published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday, saying Cohen had told prosecutors about being pressured by the President before his congressional testimony.

"BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the special counsel's office, and characterisation of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen's congressional testimony are not accurate," said the spokesman, Mr Peter Carr, on Friday.

The BuzzFeed report led to a flurry of reactions by senior members of Congress before Mr Carr's statement, who said the allegations, if true, could be grounds for initiating impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump.

The President himself responded on Twitter late on Friday, calling the special counsel's statement "a very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our country!"

A proven effort by Mr Trump to pressure a witness to commit perjury would be one of the most damning revelations so far in the investigation into Russia's attempts to sabotage the 2016 presidential election and could be the cornerstone of a case that the President obstructed justice to keep investigators at bay.

Both the White House and lawyers for Mr Trump vigorously denied the BuzzFeed report even before the special counsel's office weighed in.

 
 

"Two words sum it up better than anything anybody else can say, and that is 'categorically false'," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

BuzzFeed News maintained that its report was accurate, its editor, Mr Ben Smith, said after Mr Mueller's office disputed the account.

The New York Times has not independently confirmed the BuzzFeed report.

One person familiar with Cohen's testimony to the special counsel's prosecutors said Cohen did not state that the President had pressured him to lie to Congress.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said his panel would investigate the BuzzFeed report and was "already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 20, 2019, with the headline 'Mueller disputes report that Trump ordered lawyer to lie'. Print Edition | Subscribe