Yesterday, Buzzfeed News released what was called a “bombshell” report. Buzzfeed claimed to have proof that President Trump instructed Michael Cohen to lie to congress. Less than 48 hours later, Mueller’s office has stated that these claims are not accurate. “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,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office.
The direct intervention of Mueller’s office is rather unprecedented. Typically, Mueller has worked quietly and has largely refrained from directly speaking to the public. Outside of court proceedings and leaks, the media is mostly left in the dark.
When Buzzfeed’s story initially dropped, President Trump’s critics seemed thrilled about it. News spread quickly despite lack of corroboration. As a result, the story reached millions. However, now that the report has been debunked, Buzzfeed and the media at large have been criticized.
Speaking on a panel about the matter, CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin seemed to believe this story will damage the mainstream media’s credibility. “The larger story that a-lot of people are gonna take from this story is that the news media are a bunch of leftist liars who are dying to get the president and they’re willing to lie to do it” Toobin said. “I just think this is a bad day for us”.
Buzzfeed of course published the now infamous Steele dossier that was used as a justification to obtain a FISA warrant on Trump campaign officials. Bruce Ohr, a former high-ranking DOJ official, “explicitly told” senior DOJ and FBI officials that the dossier was heavily biased and was opposition research connected to the Clinton campaign. This happened in the summer of 2016, weeks before the election. The dossier is also said to have had information supplied by the Russian government for nefarious purposes.
Like this latest report, Buzzfeed was the only organization to publish the dossier. Other media entities passed due to lack of corroboration.