BuzzFeed Pushes Back on Special Counsel’s Denial of Michael Cohen Report

“We’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate,” company says in a statement

Last Updated: January 19, 2019 @ 12:17 PM

BuzzFeed has issued a new statement saying that it has “re-confirmed” its report about former Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, standing by the reporting despite a denial from the Special Counsel’s office.

“As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate. We remain confident in what we’ve reported, and will share more as we are able,” the company said.

BuzzFeed’s comment follows the Friday statement issued by Robert Mueller’s office disputing a report that President Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about a prospective Trump Tower in Moscow. Per Mueller’s office, “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.”

Throughout, BuzzFeed has stood by the reporting from journalists Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, with BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith calling on Mueller to “make clear what he’s disputing.”

According to BuzzFeed’s original story, Cohen told investigators that Trump instructed him to tell Congress that negotiations for the Moscow Tower ended months earlier than they actually did, in an effort to downplay Trump’s involvement in the deal. The report also stated that, according to sources, Mueller’s office had learned about Trump’s directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed the report, calling it “categorically false.” Other critics questioned the unnamed sources and conflicting reports about whether the BuzzFeed reporters had seen the evidence or were relying on accounts from their sources.

The intense scrutiny also resurfaced reporter Leopold’s checkered past. In 2002, Salon.com removed a story Leopold had written for the site after accusations of plagiarism. There was also a 2006 Columbia Journalism Review piece accusing him of fabricating sources.

The criticism prompted BuzzFeed to issue a defense of Leopold and the story Friday morning, telling TheWrap: “Jason is one of the best journalists in the world, and he has proven it, with reporting that’s been months ahead of developments in the Mueller investigation.”

“His and Anthony’s work has been proven to be true at every turn – and it’s interesting that these personal attacks are surfacing only now, as the facts become more dangerous for the individuals involved. BuzzFeed News stands by this story 100%,” the statement said.

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