Against Michael Cohen, Donald Trump Lawyer, Robert Mueller Didn’t Know Extent Of Allegations


“I made these misstatements out of loyalty to Individual 1,” Michael Cohen said referring to Donald Trump

When a BuzzFeed reporter first sought comment on the news outlet’s explosive report that President Donald Trump had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress, the spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller III treated the request as he would almost any other story.

The reporter informed Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, that he and a colleague had “a story coming stating that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump himself to lie to Congress about his negotiations related to the Trump Moscow project,” according to copies of their emails provided by a BuzzFeed spokesman. Importantly, the reporter made no reference to the special counsel’s office specifically or evidence that Mueller’s investigators had uncovered.

“We’ll decline to comment,” Carr responded, a familiar refrain for those in the media who cover Mueller’s work.

The innocuous exchange belied the chaos it would produce. When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr’s initial impression, people familiar with the matter said, in that the reporting alleged that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and self-described fixer, “told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie,” and that Mueller’s office learned of the directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

In the view of the special counsel’s office, that was wrong, two people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. And with Democrats raising the specter of investigation and impeachment, Mueller’s team started discussing a step they had never before taken: publicly disputing reporting on evidence in their ongoing investigation.

Within 24 hours of the story’s publication, the special counsel’s office issued a statement doing just that. Trump, who has called the media the “enemy of the people,” on Saturday pointed to the special counsel’s assertion as evidence of what he sees as journalists’ bias against him.

“I think that the BuzzFeed piece was a disgrace to our country. It was a disgrace to journalism, and I think also that the coverage by the mainstream media was disgraceful, and I think it’s going to take a long time for the mainstream media to recover its credibility,” Trump said Saturday. “It’s lost tremendous credibility. And believe me, that hurts me when I see that.”

BuzzFeed has stood by its reporting.

“As we’ve reconfirmed 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,” Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for the news outlet, said Saturday.

People familiar with the matter said Carr told others in the government that he would have more vigorously discouraged the reporters from proceeding with the story had he known it would allege Cohen had told the special counsel Trump directed him to lie – or that the special counsel was said to have learned this through interviews with Trump Organization witnesses, as well as internal company emails and text messages.

Carr declined to comment for this story beyond the special counsel’s office statement issued Friday.

After Carr declined to comment to BuzzFeed, but before the story was published, he sent reporter Jason Leopold a partial transcript of Cohen’s plea hearing, in which Cohen admitted lying to Congress about the timing of discussions related to a possible Trump Tower project in Moscow, according to the emails BuzzFeed’s spokesman provided. Cohen had claimed falsely that the company’s effort to build the tower ended in January 2016, when in fact discussions continued through June of that year, as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination for president.

“I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1,” Cohen said at his plea hearing late last year, using the term “Individual 1” to refer to Trump.

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Peter Carr, Robert Mueller’s spokesman, people familiar with the matter said, hoped Jason Leopold, reporter for BuzzFeed, would notice that Michael Cohen had not said during the hearing that Donald Trump had explicitly directed him to lie (File Photo)

Carr, people familiar with the matter said, hoped Leopold would notice that Cohen had not said during the hearing that Trump had explicitly directed him to lie. But Leopold, who co-authored the story with reporter Anthony Cormier, told the spokesman he was not taking any signals, and Carr acknowledged the point.

“I am not reading into what you sent and have interpreted it as an FYI,” Leopold wrote.

“Correct, just an FYI,” Carr responded.

A person inside the Trump Organization said a BuzzFeed reporter also talked with a lawyer for the organization hours before the story posted and was warned that the story was flawed and should be scrutinized further. Mittenthal said, “We trust our sources over the organization still run by Donald Trump’s family. That organization is directly implicated in the allegations related to the Trump Tower Moscow project, and refused to speak on the record for our story.”

The language Cohen and his representatives used in court had been ambiguous. Cohen had pleaded guilty in two cases – one for lying to Congress about the Moscow project, and another involving campaign finance violations for hush-money payments to women who had alleged affairs with Trump.

While neither Cohen nor his representatives had ever said explicitly that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, Guy Petrillo, Cohen’s attorney, wrote in a memo in advance of his sentencing, “We address the campaign finance and false statements allegations together because both arose from Michael’s fierce loyalty to Client-1. In each case, the conduct was intended to benefit Client-1, in accordance with Client-1’s directives.”

Client-1 refers to Trump. Petrillo declined to comment Saturday. It is unclear precisely what “directives” Petrillo was referring to, though he did not allege elsewhere in the memo that Trump explicitly instructed Cohen to lie to Congress. He wrote that Cohen was “in close and regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel to Client-1” as he prepared his testimony and “specifically knew . . . that Client-1 and his public spokespersons were seeking to portray contact with Russian representatives in any form by Client-1, the Campaign or the Trump Organization as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016.”

People familiar with the matter said after BuzzFeed published its story – which was attributed to “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter” – the special counsel’s office reviewed evidence to determine if there were any documents or witness interviews like those described, reaching out to those they thought might have a stake in the case.

They found none, these people said. That, the people said, is in part why it took Mueller’s office nearly a day to dispute the story publicly. In the interim, cable news outlets and other media organizations, including The Washington Post, dissected its possible implications – even as their reporters were unable to independently confirm it.

Told of the special counsel’s failure to find support for the story, Mittenthal, the BuzzFeed spokesman, said, “Our high-level law enforcement sources, who have helped corroborate months of accurate reporting on the Trump Tower Moscow deal and its aftermath, have told us otherwise. We look forward to further clarification from the Special Counsel in the near future.”

Two people familiar with the matter said lawyers at the special counsel’s office discussed the statement internally, rather than conferring with Justice Department leaders, for much of the day. In the advanced stages of those talks, the deputy attorney general’s office called to inquire if the special counsel planned any kind of response, and was informed a statement was being prepared, the people said.

Around 7:30 p.m. Friday, Carr distributed it to numerous media outlets via email.

“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,” he wrote.

People familiar with the matter said the special counsel’s office meant the statement to be a denial of the central theses of the BuzzFeed story – particularly those that referenced what Cohen had told the special counsel, and what evidence the special counsel had gathered.

BuzzFeed, though, asserted that the language was not specific about what was being contested.

“We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,” BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith said in response to the special counsel’s statement.

Cohen has not addressed BuzzFeed’s reporting, and BuzzFeed has made clear he was not a source for its story. Lanny Davis, a legal and communications adviser to Cohen, said before the special counsel statement was issued, “Out of respect for Mr. Mueller’s and the Office of Special Counsel’s investigation, Mr. Cohen declined to respond to the questions asked by the reporters and so do I.” He declined to address it after the special counsel’s office released the statement.

Cohen declined to comment Saturday.

– – –

The Washington Post’s Shane Harris and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Former Donald Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort Pleads Guilty In Robert Mueller Probe


Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States (Reuters)

WASHINGTON: 

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will plead guilty to two criminal counts as part of a deal with prosecutors on Friday, court documents showed in what could be a blow to Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-running probe of Russian election meddling.

As part of the deal, Manafort, 69, could be required to cooperate with Mueller’s probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Details of the deal were likely to emerge in a plea agreement hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) in federal court. Manafort would become the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller’s investigation, which has cast a shadow over Trump’s presidency.

It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort’s cooperation with Mueller’s probe, dealing a blow to Trump ahead of congressional elections on Nov. 6.

Another approach would be for Manafort to plead guilty without cooperating in hopes of a presidential pardon. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort, but the president has not publicly ruled it out.

Manafort will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Five other charges were dropped in the new court filing.

A Virginia jury convicted Manafort last month on bank and tax fraud charges.

Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in a second trial on charges including conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.

Manafort’s decision could be a blow to Trump, who last month praised his former aide for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.

On Twitter on Aug. 22, Trump wrote: “Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal. Such respect for a brave man!”

According to the court filing, the charge of conspiracy against the United States includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and acting as an unregistered lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. The second count, for conspiracy to obstruct justice, concerns attempts to tamper with witnesses related to Manafort’s foreign lobbying.

Manafort’s conviction in Alexandria, Virginia, last month was at a trial arising from Mueller’s investigation. Trump has denied colluding with the Russians and the Russians have denied interfering.

Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner and the campaign’s deputy chairman, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation, later testifying against Manafort in Virginia. Gates may have been a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russia probe, told Reuters on Friday that a guilty plea to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort’s chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon.

“It’s not going to hurt him if he pleads guilty. Usually it helps you get a pardon down the road. It shows you’ve admitted your guilt,” he said on Friday before a deal was announced. He declined further comment until after the hearing.

© Thomson Reuters 2018

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Donald Trump Worries That Mueller Interview Could Be A ‘Perjury Trap’


Donald Trump asserted that he retained the power to intervene in the probe. (File)

WASHINGTON: 

US President Donald Trump said on Monday he was worried that any statements under oath he provides to Special Counsel Robert Mueller could be used to bring perjury charges against him as part of the probe into Russia’s electoral interference.

In an interview with Reuters, Trump echoed the concerns of his top lawyer in the probe, Rudy Giuliani, who has warned that any sit-down with Mueller could be a “perjury trap.”

The president expressed fears that investigators could compare his statements with that of others who have testified in the probe, such as former FBI Director James Comey, and that any discrepancies could be used against him.

“So if I say something and he (Comey) says something, and it’s my word against his, and he’s best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: ‘Well, I believe Comey,’ and even if I’m telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That’s no good.”

Despite his concerns, Trump did not comment on whether he would ultimately agree to an interview with Mueller, who is, among other things, investigating whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russians during the 2016 election and whether Trump has obstructed justice in the probe.

Trump also declined to say whether he might strip Mueller of his security clearance, as he did last week to former CIA Director John Brennan, who had repeatedly criticized Trump’s handling of foreign policy and national security issues.

“I haven’t given it a lot of thought,” he said.

Russia has denied interfering in the 2016 U.S. election and Trump has denied any collusion took place.

As he has done almost daily on Twitter, Trump railed against the probe in the Oval Office interview with Reuters, repeatedly calling it a disgrace and arguing that Mueller and other members of his team were biased.

Trump asserted that he retained the power to intervene in the probe, but that he had chosen not to do so for the moment.

His administration, Trump said, was “a smooth-running machine, except in that world. And I’ve decided to stay out. Now I don’t have to stay out.

“I can go in, and I could do whatever – I could run it if I want. But I decided to stay out,” he said. “I’m totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven’t chosen to be involved. I’ll stay out.”

Trump has been critical of Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the probe, leaving oversight to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

In the interview, Trump blamed the investigation for hampering his efforts to strengthen the country’s relationship with Russia and for sowing discord among the American public.

He again neglected to blame Russia for interfering in the 2016 election, a conclusion reached by the U.S. intelligence community.

The probe, he said, “played right into the Russians – if it was Russia – they played right into the Russians’ hands.”

© Thomson Reuters 2018





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Donald Trump Suggests Robert Mueller Is Behind Russia Probe Leaks


Donald Trump’s lawyers sternly oppose attempts by Robert Mueller’s office to interview him

Washington, United States:  American President Donald Trump suggested Saturday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is deliberately leaking to the press documents about his probe into possible collusion with Russia.

“There was No Collusion with Russia (except by the Democrats). When will this very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax ever end? So bad for our Country,” Trump tweeted after the investigation passed its one-year mark last month.

“Is the Special Counsel/Justice Department leaking my lawyers letters to the Fake News Media? Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?”

Earlier, The New York Times published a confidential 20-page letter the American president’s legal team sent to Mueller in January, along with another sent in June 2017.

In the letters, Trump’s lawyers sternly oppose attempts by Mueller’s office to interview him, saying “under our system of government, the president is not readily available to be interviewed.”

They also argue that Trump cannot be accused of obstructing justice because he has the constitutional power to end the investigation led by the Justice Department.

Mueller was appointed in May 2017 to investigate Russian efforts to tip the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

He has increasingly dug into evidence of alleged money laundering, fraud and obstruction of justice inside Trump’s inner circle.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)





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Robert Mueller Told Trump Team He Would Not Indict Donald Trump, Says Rudy Giuliani


CNN cited an interview with Rudy Giuliani while reporting the statement. (File photo)

Washignton:  Special Counsel Robert Mueller has told President Donald Trump’s legal team he would follow Justice Department guidance that a president cannot be indicted, CNN reported, citing an interview with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

“All they get to do is write a report,” Giuliani said, according to the network. “They can’t indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us.”

A spokesman for Mueller, Peter Carr, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Mueller is investigating allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

CNN said the Mueller team had been debating whether to challenge the Nixon-era guidelines, which were reaffirmed during the Clinton administration, that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Trump has denied colluding with Russia and has called the Mueller investigation, which marks its first anniversary on Thursday, a witch hunt.

Giuliani and another Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
 

© Thomson Reuters 2018

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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