BuzzFeed News is attempting to explain its botched bombshell claiming President Donald Trump directed lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress after Mueller’s report on Russia collusion revealed the story not to be true.
An article by editor-in-chief Ben Smith published Thursday further characterizes the sources and documents that lead to the report, but does not indicate that BuzzFeed intends to retract the story.
BuzzFeed published the intense allegation in January 2019, citing two law enforcement officials sources and launching a full day of speculation that the president could be impeached. (RELATED: CNN And MSNBC Repeatedly Floated Impeachment Over Disputed BuzzFeed Report)
Mueller’s office disputed the report, which said Trump directed Cohen to lie about a Trump Tower deal in Moscow — an unprecedented move by the special counsel.
“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 spokesman for the special counsel’s office said at the time.
BuzzFeed continued to defend the story despite the vehement denial by Mueller’s team, but the release of the redacted report Thursday specifically debunks the reporting. (RELATED: Mueller Report Directly Contradicts Bombshell BuzzFeed Story)
“Cohen said that he and the President did not explicitly discuss whether Cohen’s testimony about the Trump Tower Moscow project would be or was false, and the President did not direct him to provide false testimony. Cohen also said he did not tell the President about the specifics of his planned testimony,” the report says.
The report adds that while Trump may have known that Cohen’s testimony was false, the evidence “does not establish that the President directed or aided Cohen’s false testimony.”
Smith argues that BuzzFeed stood by the story initially because its two law enforcement officials were confident with the way they characterized the interaction between Trump and Cohen, adding that BuzzFeed reviewed the officials’ notes from an interview with Cohen.
“That reporting included documents — specifically, pages of notes that were taken during an interview of Cohen by the FBI. In those notes, one law enforcement source wrote that “DJT personally asked Cohen to say negotiations ended in January and White House counsel office knew Cohen would give false testimony to Congress. Sanctioned by DJT. Joint lawyer team reviewed letter Cohen sent to SSCI about his testimony about Trump Tower moscow, et al, knowing it contained lies.”
“The facts of Cohen’s lies and his interactions with Trump are, largely, now settled. Our sources — federal law enforcement officials — interpreted the evidence Cohen presented as meaning that the president ‘directed’ Cohen to lie. We now know that Mueller did not,” Smith writes.
Smith ultimately characterizes the contradictory information in the Mueller report as an “update” to the story, but does not apologize for getting it wrong or indicate that they plan on issuing a retraction or correction.
The original piece now reads at the top, “UPDATE: The Mueller report found that Trump did not direct Michael Cohen to lie.”