- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
- BuzzFeed News reported late Thursday that President Donald Trump personally directed Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, to lie to Congress in 2017.
- The report said Trump ordered Cohen to mislead lawmakers about the now defunct Trump Tower Moscow project, a focus of investigators examining whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
- Cohen initially testified to congressional committees investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives that discussions about the Trump Moscow deal ended in January 2016. He later admitted to the special counsel Robert Mueller that those talks continued through that June.
- Mueller’s team learned of Trump’s instruction to Cohen through “multiple witnesses,” documents, internal emails, and text messages from members of the Trump Organization, BuzzFeed News reported.
- Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, disputed BuzzFeed’s report on Friday. In a statement to INSIDER, Carr said: “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.”
President Donald Trump personally directed Michael Cohen, his former attorney, to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal in 2017, BuzzFeed News reported late Thursday.
The now defunct Trump Tower Moscow deal is a focus of the special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election and whether the Trump campaign secretly worked with Moscow to tilt the race in Trump’s favor.
Cohen has admitted to lying to Congress about multiple aspects of the Trump Tower Moscow deal, including how long the Trump Organization pursued the deal, the extent of his communication with Russian government officials, and the involvement of multiple Trump family members in pushing the deal through.
And per BuzzFeed News, Cohen initially concealed that Trump told him to mislead lawmakers.
Mueller reportedly learned about Trump’s instruction to Cohen through “multiple witnesses,” documents, internal emails, and text messages from members of the Trump Organization, then from Cohen.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, disputed BuzzFeed’s report on Friday.
In a statement to INSIDER, Carr said: “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.”
Cohen initially told congressional committees investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian operatives that the Trump Tower Moscow talks ended in January 2016. He later admitted in a plea deal with Mueller that those talks continued through that June.
Citing two law-enforcement officials, BuzzFeed News reported that during the 2016 campaign Cohen had “at least 10 face-to-face meetings” with Trump about the Moscow deal, which Trump thought could bring in more than $300 million in profit for his company.
Cohen told Mueller that after Trump won the 2016 election, he instructed him to lie about when talks about that Moscow deal ended “in order to obscure Trump’s involvement,” the report said.
The accusation that Trump personally instructed Cohen, his attorney at the time, to lie to Congress could put the president in significant legal jeopardy, as such a claim could amount to obstruction of justice, legal scholars said.
In addition to investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow, Mueller is also looking into whether Trump sought to obstruct justice at several points during the Russia probe, including when he fired James Comey, the FBI director who was overseeing the investigation, in May 2017.
In a statement texted to the Daily Beast, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in response to the BuzzFeed News report, “Haven’t checked it out but if you believe Cohen I can get you a good all cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge?”
Cohen is expected to testify publicly before the House Intelligence Committee on February 7. But a new report from Reuters published Thursday night indicated he was having second thoughts.
Lanny Davis, an attorney who has been advising Cohen on his media strategy, told MSNBC that some remarks Trump has made about Cohen amounted to witness tampering and deserved to be criminally investigated, Reuters reported.
“There is genuine fear and it has caused Michael Cohen to consider whether he should go forward or not, and he has not made a final decision,” Davis said.