Special counsel disputes explosive report on Trump lawyer testimony

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office took the rare step on Friday of disputing a news report on his Russia investigation, saying a BuzzFeed article alleging that US President Donald Trump directed his former lawyer to lie to Congress is “not accurate.”

Trump’s lieutenants had already strongly pushed back against the report, which said that the president ordered Michael Cohen to lie about a Russian skyscraper project they pursued during the 2016 election.

“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,” spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement.

Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 vote and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow is the subject of frequent articles and even more frequent speculation.

But it is extremely rare – if not unprecedented – for Mueller’s office to issue such a statement.

BuzzFeed’s editor-in chief however said the news organisation stood by its work.

“We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,” Ben Smith tweeted.

The statement was nevertheless a cause for celebration for the president, who retweeted numerous supporters slamming BuzzFeed and later wrote it was “A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!”

“Fake News is truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” he added, a now familiar refrain when talking about critical media.