BuzzFeed News published an explosive report on Thursday night alleging that President Trump instructed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his involvement in the unsuccessful Trump Tower Moscow deal during his 2016 campaign. The allegation came from anonymous federal law enforcement officials who are currently investigating the deal.
In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about the deal in testimony to Congress. BuzzFeed’s sources told the site that the lie was on Trump’s behalf, and that Trump specifically instructed Cohen to obscure his family’s connections to the deal and misrepresent how long negotiations lasted during the campaign.
Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office. Trump and his children also apparently received regular reports from Cohen about the project, while telling the public that they were not involved.
If this is all true, it means that there is solid evidence out there that Trump lied about his dealings with Russia in order to obstruct justice.
Notably, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, repeatedly told Congress this week that directing someone to lie would constitute obstruction of justice.
BuzzFeed’s sources say that Trump children Ivanka and Don Jr. were both heavily involved in the project. The sources say that Cohen gave them both “very detailed updates” on the deal’s progress. A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump denied this to BuzzFeed.
“Ms. Trump did not know about this proposal until after a non-binding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the Organization about the proposal, never visited the prospective project site and, even internally, was only minimally involved,” Peter Mirijanian wrote in a statement.
The White House declined to comment to BuzzFeed. We have also reached out to the White House for comment and will update if we hear back.
Update, 8:50 a.m. ET: Unsurprisingly, Democrats in Congress have taken an interest.
Update, 8:03 p.m. ET: The usually silent Special Counsel Office has made a rare comment on a news article about their work—to dispute Buzzfeed’s story: