Special counsel issues rare statement disputing explosive Cohen report

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report MORE's office issued a rare statement Friday night disputing an explosive report from BuzzFeed News that President TrumpDonald John TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE had told his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.

A number of Democratic lawmakers had seized on the report throughout the day on Friday, calling the latest bombshell allegation against Trump the most damning yet, with several raising the possibility of impeachment.

“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,” special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement obtained by The Hill on Friday night.

ADVERTISEMENT

BuzzFeed News said in its own statement responding to the special counsel that it stood by the report, while calling for Mueller to detail what parts of its reporting he was specifically disputing.

"We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he's disputing," BuzzFeed News said in the statement to The Hill.

BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith also called into MSNBC and CNN on Friday night to reiterate that the outlet stood by its report published Thursday night.

The report said federal investigators have evidence that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the timing of negotiations over a potential Trump Tower in Moscow. The story cited "two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter."

"We spoke to federal law enforcement officials involved in the investigation … who told us the president directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress," Smith said on "Anderson Cooper 360."

Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani tweeted Friday night to "commend" Mueller's office for disputing the BuzzFeed story, while Trump knocked the outlet in his own tweet late Friday, calling it "a very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!" 

In his tweet, Trump noted that BuzzFeed had previously published in January 2017 a dossier of unverified allegations surrounding Trump's ties to Russia. BuzzFeed has long defended its publication of the controversial opposition research document.

Mueller's office rarely comments on stories related to the special counsel's investigation into potential collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Former Department of Justice spokesman Matthew Miller said that the rarity of the special counsel responding to reports may mean the story is "fundamentally wrong."

“You can spend hours parsing the Carr statement, but given how unusual it is for any [Justice Department] office to issue this sort of on the record denial, let alone this office, suspect it means the story’s core contention that they have evidence Trump told Cohen to lie is fundamentally wrong,” he wrote on Twitter.

Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDemocrats seek to ban federal spending at Trump businesses Republicans, Trump Jr. signal support for embattled West Virginia governor The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back MORE reacted to the special counsel's statement denying the BuzzFeed report on Friday night by sharing a series of laughing emojis on Twitter. The president's eldest son tweeted in part to argue that "BuzzFeed (RIP) proves what a joke the coverage of the witch hunt has been."

The president earlier Friday in the wake of the report accused his former longtime attorney of lying in order to reduce his prison time.

BuzzFeed had released a statement earlier Friday defending the reporters behind the story and saying that it "stands by this story 100%."

For his part, Cohen adviser Lanny Davis refused to confirm or deny the report during an interview with MSNBC on Friday afternoon.

Updated: 10:15 p.m.