The BuzzFeed story has dominated the news and social media since it broke Thursday night. It was “absolutely terrifying neck snapping news” as Rachel Maddow put it in her Friday night show.
Even on Friday morning Fox News couldn’t get White House Spokesman Hogan Gidley to deny Trump told Cohen to lie (story in Daily Beast). But then the Trumpers were issued a reprieve when Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, issued a statement saying “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.”
BuzzFeed responded by tweet “In response to the statement tonight from the Special Counsel’s spokesman: We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”
One of the reporters who wrote the BuzzFeed story, Anthony Cormier told CNN (video) that “100% this happened.” He said “I am rock solid. My sourcing on this goes beyond the two that are on the record. I am the individual that confirmed what happened.”
Rachel Maddow interviewed Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed by phone. He made it clear that Mueller’s office was obviously disputing some part of the story, but he said he wasn’t sure which one. He emphasized confidently that BuzzFeed their sources were well-informed, and that were involved in the investigation. If true this would mean that somebody in the Special Counsel’s office had leaked.
He said his sources were in a position to have told BuzzFeed what they know and that he had contacted them and they were not backing off. He said the Justice Department response was crafted by accomplished lawyers. He said it obviously meant something but Smith said he wasn’t clear what it meant.
BuzzFeed’s release of the famous or infamous (depending on which side you are) Steele Dossier wasn’t based on investigative reporting. This story is the result of investigative journalism.
About 24 hours went by before Mueller’s office responded. As anyone who has been reading or watching the news knows that the article led to every Democrat who wears shoes to work to expressing alarm and calling for an impeachment investigation in the House. Joaquin Castro ‘s tweet was short and sweet: “If the BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached.” Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted “The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”
Chuck Rosenberg who was United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia told Rachel unequivocally that “the core of the BuzzFeed story is accurate.”
Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent at Yahoo News thought the story was a distraction from what we already know Trump did. He is author of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump
I anticipate that Trump’s defense will be diversion, blame the messenger, attacking Mueller’s office for having leakers (not mentioning that some or all of what was leaked has not been proved to be wrong).
Maddow showed the tweets from journalist and lawyer Ronan Farrow tweeted: “Note that the general thrust of Cohen lying to Congress ‘in accordance with’ or “to support and advance” Trump’s agenda (per Cohen’s legal memo) is not in dispute. The source disputed the further, more specific idea that Trump issued—and memorialized—repeated direct instructions….. BuzzFeed has broken significant stories and has many excellent reporters…. I can’t speak to BuzzFeed’s sourcing, but, for what it’s worth, I declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly issued orders of that kind.
Trump for his part didn’t tweet about the BuzzFeed story himself. Instead he was busy finding tweets to re-tweet. He re-tweeted messages from people I never heard of, for example from CC: “The BuzzFeed bombshell bombed. It blew up in their face and the rest of the fake news are casualties too.” This was from Ryar A. Fournier who describes himself as Political Commentator and Analyst – Chairman of
@TrumpStudents – President of @XStrategiesDC & @NDCTrumpAdvisor – RF@xstrats.com: “The reporters never saw the evidence. They went off of a source who said it was “credible”. This isn’t journalism. Congratulations, BuzzFeed and CNN are head to head on the Fake News award.”
This was from JointheNRA NOW: “By the time their fake news campaigns are fully exposed they’ve already moved on to their next fake news campaign. A global real estate developer contemplating developing global real estate is just a desperate attempt to create their latest Trump scandal du jour.”
Trump’s Friday evening tweet was just a video of him screeching about border security. Midday on Friday he tweeted “AMERICA FIRST!” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
At 11 PM Friday night he tweeted “Remember it was Buzzfeed that released the totally discredited ‘Dossier,’ paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats (as opposition research), on which the entire Russian probe is based! A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!” At about 11:30 PM Friday night he tweeted “Fake News is truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
He also retweeted Geraldo Rivera twice late Friday night
Donald J. Trump Retweeted this one in which Rivera tells him to “Reflect. Negotiate. Reopen the government.” I am not sure if he ranks as high on the Trump-whispering scale as Coulter and Limbaugh so we’ll see if he persuaded him.
It’s impossible to copy the tweet from Donald Trump, Jr. so you will have to indulge me for having to post an image of it here(avert your eyes if you must):
This column will have to be updated if Trump wakes up in a cold sweat (sorry for that imagry) and hits the twitterverse again.
Meanwhile my hunch is that we won’t get any clarification from Mueller’s office and that other investigative journalists will work on finding their own sources to confirm or dispute elements of the Buzzfeed story.
UPDATE JAN 19, 2019 Noon EST
From The Washington Post “BuzzFeed’s stumble fuels doubts about the press, even if a few details are missing.”
The fact that the normally buttoned-up special counsel’s office felt compelled to issue a statement suggests that the story’s conclusions were too baldly stated and too consequential to stay unchallenged. In effect, Mueller’s office seemed to be saying that BuzzFeed went too far and got some things wrong, though it did not say how or what.
In fact, what it didn’t say was important, too. It didn’t say Mueller had noevidence that Trump had sought to influence Cohen — just that BuzzFeed’s description of such statements was inaccurate. Nor did it spell out which reported statements were inaccurate and in what way. Further, it offered no details about how BuzzFeed had mischaracterized any evidence that Mueller has collected.
UPDATE FROM CNN:
On Saturday a spokesman for the news division said, “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.”
(Editor-in-Chief Ben ) Smith, speaking on “AC360,” pointed out that reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier have previously been “way out in front” on stories about Trump Tower Moscow that were later confirmed.Smith said he knows the identities of the two sources in Thursday’s story. “We’re really confident in these specific sources,” he said.So now BuzzFeed is going back to the sources to try to glean more information. The news outlet’s credibility is on the line in a big way, and some journalists are predicting that this episode will not end well.
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