Media reliability questioned over report Trump directed lies to Congress

Media reliability questioned over report Trump directed lies to Congress
© Getty

Democrats raised fresh questions and Republicans pushed back Sunday, after a new report alleging President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday Eighty-eight years of debt pieties MORE directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress exploded in the media over the weekend. 

Republicans swiped at BuzzFeed News and the media after special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's office issued a rare statement that the story was not accurate.


Vice President Pence on Sunday pointed to the reaction to the report as evidence that some are out to “get” Trump. The president’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, suggested BuzzFeed should be sued.

"It was remarkable what we saw happening for 24 hours in the media on the basis of the report that appeared in BuzzFeed, and I just think it’s one of the reasons why people are so frustrated with many in the national media and the constant obsession on this," Pence said on "Fox News Sunday."

But Democrats appeared undeterred by the special counsel contesting the report, citing the claims in the BuzzFeed story as further proof that Trump may have obstructed justice and requires investigation. BuzzFeed continues to stand behind its reporting in the story, even claiming "further confirmation" of its accuracy on Sunday.

"Congress has a fundamental interest ... in getting to the bottom of why a witness who came before us lied, and who else was knowledgeable that this was a lie," said Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats hit Trump for handling of Russian bounty allegations after White House briefing Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Democrats face tough questions with Bolton MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Schiff said on "Face the Nation" that he will "absolutely" pursue the claims in the BuzzFeed story, and he intends to ask Cohen to appear before the House Intelligence Committee either voluntarily or by subpoena if necessary.

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE (D-N.Y.), who recently launched an exploratory committee to run for president in 2020, called the initial report "highly concerning," and urged lawmakers to again consider legislation that would protect Mueller's investigation.

BuzzFeed News reported Friday that Trump had directed his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the timing of negotiations over a potential Trump Tower in Moscow.

The story gained traction among Democrats, some of whom pledged further investigation and others who revived calls for impeachment.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Sunday rejected the notion that Democrats had overreacted to the BuzzFeed report. He cited lawmakers' use of the caveat that the report would have to be true for it to warrant talk of impeachment.

"I don’t think that my Democratic friends are in any way rushing to judgment because they qualified right up front 'if this is true,' " Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, said on "Fox News Sunday."

"When you preface your statement with 'if this is true,' that to me gives you all the cover you need," he added. "If they had something as if it were true that would be one thing to be concerned about. But they’ve all said 'if this is true.' "

Other news outlets were not able to independently confirm BuzzFeed's reporting, though the story received significant attention on cable news and was the subject of extensive analysis online.

The special counsel's office issued a rare statement hours after publication pushing back on the story and saying that "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."

Trump welcomed the statement from Mueller's office, despite his past derision of the special counsel's probe as a "witch hunt." He labeled BuzzFeed and its report a "disgrace."

Anthony Cormier, one of the two reporters behind the BuzzFeed story, unequivocally stood behind his reporting on Sunday.

"I have further confirmation that this is right," Cormier said on CNN's "Reliable Sources." "We’re being told to stand our ground. This is — our reporting is going to be borne to be accurate and we’re 100 percent behind it."

Cormier dismissed the possibility that his sources could have unintentionally gotten it wrong, telling CNN that he's "confident" that's not the case.

Republicans have focused their ire on BuzzFeed and those who ran with the story.

"It was embarrassing. I think the First Amendment was bruised," Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) said on "Face the Nation."

Kennedy acknowledged that reporters "make mistakes," but said that he found it "astonishing" how many other publications and lawmakers took the report at face value.


On "Face the Nation," Pence would not say what specifically was inaccurate in the BuzzFeed piece, only that he'd "let the special counsel address that issue."

"But look, what the American people saw this week was the obsession of many in the national media, and frankly some Democrats on Capitol Hill, to assume the worst about this president," he said.

CNN's Jake Tapper separately pushed back on Giuliani's similar claim of a media "hysteria" against Trump, telling the former New York City mayor "there's no hysteria here," and urging him to focus on the facts.

Giuliani, who joined Trump’s legal team in April, was the lone Republican or ally of the president to speak at the length about the substantive allegations detailed in the BuzzFeed piece.

“As far as I know, President Trump did not have discussions with him, certainly had no discussions with him in which he told him or counseled him to lie,” Giuliani said of Cohen on CNN’s “State of the Union." 

“If he had any discussions with him, they'd be about the version of the events that Michael Cohen gave them, which they all believed was true,” he continued. “I believed it was true. I still believe it may be true, because, unlike these people who want to just believe him, I believe Michael Cohen is a serial liar.”

Pressed on the fact that he acknowledged Trump may have spoken to Cohen about his testimony, Giuliani dismissed its significance and asserted that Cohen was the one accountable for his testimony.

“So what if [Trump] talked to him about it?” Giuliani said.