Despite an embarrassing takedown of a report purporting to find evidence President Donald Trump instructed his former lawyer to lie to the FBI, House Democrats still plan to investigate the report’s initial claims.
Last Thursday, Buzzfeed published a “bombshell” report claiming to have sources who said Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, was instructed by the president himself to lie to Congress about past negotiations involving a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow. No other media outlets could confirm the report, but decided to dedicate pages and screen time to the claim with the irresponsible qualifier “if true.” Friday evening, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office released a statement calling the Buzzfeed report “not accurate.”
“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,” a spokesperson for Mueller said.
The Washington Post followed up the statement with its own reporting, from “people familiar with the matter” that Mueller’s statement “aims to make clear that none of those statements in the story are accurate.” The New York Times also reported that it had “not independently confirmed the Buzzfeed report” and that “[o]ne person familiar with Mr. Cohen’s testimony to the special counsel’s prosecutors said that Mr. Cohen did not state that the president had pressured him to lie to Congress.”
This has not deterred Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who has publicly stated that he would continue to investigate the claims in the Buzzfeed report. He told the Times after Mueller’s refutation that he was “already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters.”
Schiff, using the qualifier “if true,” then told the Times the implication that Trump directed someone to lie under oath “would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice.”
Schiff went further on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” on CBS, where he suggested Mueller may have only released the statement so it would “be able to use Michael Cohen as a witness in further prosecutions and wanted to make sure that the public didn’t have a perception that he was saying more than he was saying, at least to the special counsel.”
Schiff then shifted focus to Mueller’s broader investigation of whether Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election, saying “we need to pay particular attention to what we do know from the special counsel that was not included in this statement yesterday.”
“What we do know from the special counsel is that Michael Cohen has shared information about core matters of the Russian investigation that he learned from people associated with the Trump Organization, the business organization. We also know from the special counsel that he has shared information about his communications with people associated with the White House during 2017 and 2018,” Schiff said.
Asked directly by host Margaret Brennan if he was going to investigate the Buzzfeed claims, Schiff responded:
Absolutely, absolutely. Congress has as a- has a fundamental interest in two things, first in getting to the bottom of why a witness came before us and lied, and who else was knowledgeable that this was a lie.
Schiff said he has asked Cohen to testify before the committee.
The Democrat also said he would “do everything necessary to make the [final Mueller] report public but more than that, because [the Trump administration] will fight us on this, we need to do our own investigations because at the end of the day if the Justice Department tries to stonewall the release of that report for whatever reason, the American people are going to need to know what happened, and we’re going to have to press forth.”