After stirring up a media hornet’s nest on Friday with a report that Michael Cohen was directed to lie to Congress by President Trump, BuzzFeed News was properly slapped into their place by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which released a statement denouncing the article.
“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 a spokesman for Mueller.
In other words, yes, Michael Cohen lied to Congress about the specific timing of the Trump Tower Moscow project. Perhaps he is even telling Mueller that Trump instructed him to lie about this. We would have no trouble believing any of that, because Cohen is a man in a trap and has shown himself to be quite comfortable with lying to make himself look better. Or to improve his position with the feds. Either way, it proves literally nothing about Trump or his intentions, and it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with obstruction of justice.
But BuzzFeed went further, claiming that Mueller was in possession of documents and internal Trump Organization emails which showed that Trump directed Cohen to lie. While the article’s reporters later admitted that they had not seen such evidence themselves, they skirted over that fact in the report and gave the public the impression that this evidence DID exist and that Mueller had it. If that claim were true, then Democrats would have every reason to talk about impeachment (which they did, ad nauseum, in the aftermath of the report).
But it turns out that was all a bunch of hooey.
One of the authors of the story admitted Friday that they had not lain eyes on the documents. But then on Sunday, the other author said he had, a claim that the first writer could not address or credit when asked about it later. And while all of this silliness is going on, BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith releases a statement saying the outlet stands by the story! Um, your story is toast, dude! You’re really going to dig your heels in on this? Good luck with that.
Then again, not everyone is convinced that the story was false. Conservative radio host Mark Levin, while not giving any particular credence to the story’s validity, said he could imagine another reason why Mueller might have wanted to correct the record.
“The fact is, Mr. Mueller’s office did not want a leak investigation,” he said. “There was every basis to have a leak investigation if, in fact, the Justice Department believed this story was accurate. So they didn’t release this rare statement just because they are good people. They released it to cover their asses because they don’t want a leak investigation again.”
That’s an interesting take, and it would make sense. The last thing Mueller wants is to come under scrutiny by the higher-ups in the Trump administration. He’s enjoyed his little autonomous fiefdom for a long time, and he won’t want that ruined by a sensationalist story in BuzzFeed, of all places.
At the end of the day, who knows? But we have to think that if Mueller really had THESE goods on Trump, this investigation would have wrapped a long time ago. For now, we’re comfortable filing it in the Fake News desk and re-confirming our suspicions about the journalistic standards over at BuzzFeed.