Remember how the media (yes, including The Daily Wire) jumped on a January 17, 2019 report in Buzzfeed that the Special Counsel had evidence that President Donald Trump “directed” his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to prosecutors?
The story was questionable on the surface, as its sources were anonymous law enforcement officials and by the time it was reported, Cohen had already been charged with crimes and this would have been something included in those charges. Further, it was clear even the left-wing media was unsure of the veracity of the report, as they couched their reporting on it with the qualifier “if true.”
Hours after the report was released — and after left-wing media outlets spent the day pushing the narrative to suggest Trump was going down soon — Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office issued a rare statement calling the report “not accurate.” The Washington Post and The New York Times followed up that statement with reports from anonymous sources corroborating the claim of inaccuracy.
"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 Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller.
Yet Buzzfeed held steadfast to the story, with Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith going on national TV to defend his reporters and his outlet.
Now that Mueller’s report has been released, Smith has finally acknowledged that Buzzfeed’s reporting was wrong, and offered a detailed explanation of how it happened.
“Today, with the release of the Mueller report, we know which characterization Carr was disputing: Specifically, that the series of interactions between Trump, Cohen, and their lawyers did not, in the prosecutors’ view, amount to Trump ‘directing’ Cohen to lie,” Smith wrote.
So, the crux of their story was the “not accurate” part.
Smith says his reporters received handwritten notes from the FBI’s interview of Cohen. One law enforcement source wrote:
DJT personally asked Cohen to say negotiations ended in January and White House counsel office knew Cohen would give false testimony to Congress. Sanctioned by DJT. Joint lawyer team reviewed letter Cohen sent to SSCI about his testimony about Trump Tower Moscow [sic], et al, knowing it contained lies.
This same source also wrote in those notes: “‘Cohen told OSC’ — the Office of Special Counsel — ‘he was asked to lie by DJT/DJT Jr., lawyers,’” according to Smith.
After the Buzzfeed report, Cohen testified before Congress and his attorneys sent a memo to lawmakers claiming Trump encouraged him to lie “in his way,” meaning Cohen inferred that Trump wanted him to lie instead of Trump actually asking him to lie.
Mueller’s report concluded that, “While there is evidence ... that the president knew Cohen provided false testimony to Congress ... the evidence to us does not establish the president directed or aided Cohen's false testimony."
The original Buzzfeed article is still headlined “President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project,” but the post now contains an “update” just below the headline which reads: “The Mueller report found that Trump did not direct Michael Cohen to lie.”
It’s a retraction without an actual retraction.