Tuesday 16 July 2019

Trump thanks Mueller for disputing report

Cohen: Trump’s bagman. Photo: AP
Cohen: Trump’s bagman. Photo: AP

Eric Tucker

US President Donald Trump yesterday said he was grateful to special counsel Robert Mueller for a statement disputing a BuzzFeed News report that Trump directed his former lawyer to lie to Congress about a Moscow property deal.

"I appreciate the special counsel coming out with a statement last night. I think it was very appropriate that they did so," Trump told reporters at the White House. "I think that the BuzzFeed piece was a disgrace to our country. It was a disgrace to journalism."

Mueller's office issued its rare public statement disputing the accuracy of the report that Trump's former attorney told Mueller that Trump directed the lawyer to lie to Congress.

BuzzFeed, citing two unidentified law enforcement officials, reported that Trump directed lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Moscow property project and that Cohen told Mueller the president personally instructed him to lie about the timing of the deal.

The statement by Mueller's office last Friday night didn't cite any specific errors in the report.

However a BuzzFeed spokesman said the website stood by its reporting. "We urge the special counsel to make clear what he's disputing," Smith said.

Cohen pleaded guilty last November to lying to Congress to cover up that he was negotiating the Trump Tower project on Trump's behalf during the heat of his presidential campaign. The charge was brought by Mueller and was the result of Cohen's co-operation with that probe.

Cohen admitted that he lied when he told lawmakers he had never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the Moscow project and when he said he had decided by the end of January 2016 that the proposal was "not feasible for a variety of business reasons and should not be pursued further".

He was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to conceal his boss's alleged sexual affairs, telling a judge that he agreed time and again to cover up Trump's "dirty deeds" out of "blind loyalty".

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