US Special Counsel disputes report Trump told lawyer to lie
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US Special Counsel disputes report Trump told lawyer to lie

BuzzFeed, citing two unnamed law enforcement sources, said Cohen, who is going to prison for lying to Congress, told investigators working for Mueller that Trump had directed him to lie about efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow while he was running for president. “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,” Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, said in a rare statement from the special counsel. While Mueller’s spokesman stopped short of declaring the article false in its entirety, he disputed portions of the story that appear to go to the heart of the allegations made against Trump. It was the first time Mueller has commented about a news article concerning his probe of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said in a statement: “We stand by the reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.” After the BuzzFeed report was published on Thursday night, investigators in the US Senate and House of Representatives said they plan to examine the allegations in the report. Leading Democrats in the House said they would seek to verify the story, saying that if true it would be evidence of criminal activity by the president. Earlier on Friday, the White House said the story was false. “Look, that’s absolutely ridiculous,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, said it was “exceedingly rare” for Mueller to comment on a news report, highlighting the significance of the allegations made in the BuzzFeed article and the attention it was getting in the media and among lawmakers. “They are making a public comment to tell everyone to calm down,” Weinstein said. “He doesn’t want people to think his silence is confirming the truthfulness of the report.” BuzzFeed said Mueller’s office learned of Trump’s instructions to Cohen through internal Trump Organization emails, witness interviews, text messages and other documents, and that Cohen told prosecutors about the directive in an interview. Trump said on Twitter that Cohen was lying in order to get less prison time. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said in a statement that any suggestion that Trump told Cohen to lie is “categorically false.” Representatives for the Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment on the BuzzFeed report. Cohen, who once said he was so loyal to Trump that he would “take a bullet” for him, is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence in March after pleading guilty to charges including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress. If Trump did tell Cohen to lie, that would constitute criminal activity, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, who said he would look into the matter. “Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime,” Nadler said on Twitter. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the allegation that Trump may have directed Cohen to lie under oath “is among the most serious to date.” “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true,” Schiff, also a Democrat, said on Twitter. Some Senate Intelligence Committee investigators hope to ask Cohen about the BuzzFeed report when he testifies behind closed doors in February, a committee source told Reuters. He also will face questions about it in testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7.

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