President Donald Trump personally instructed his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about talks to build a Trump Tower in Moscow after the 2016 election—and investigators have internal emails, text messages, and interviews with Trump Organization witnesses to back up the claim, according to BuzzFeed News.
While Cohen already acknowledged lying to Congress in late November—when he pleaded guilty to giving false testimony to congressional investigators about how long negotiations on the Trump Tower went on and suggested he’d done so to protect Trump—Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, were quick to dismiss the claims at the time as nothing more than the ramblings of a “liar.”
Yet two federal law enforcement officials cited by BuzzFeed late Thursday now say Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators had gathered evidence of Trump directing Cohen to lie before the president's longtime fixer even admitted to the alleged scheme.
According to the report, investigators first learned about Trump’s alleged directive for Cohen to lie from interviews with multiple Trump Organization witnesses, internal company emails, text messages, and other documents.
Cohen is said to have then confirmed investigators' findings, telling them that Trump approached him after the election and personally instructed him to lie and say Trump Tower negotiations had ended months earlier than they actually had—a move that Mueller alleged in earlier court filings was aimed at “limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”
“Make it happen,” Trump was quoted as telling Cohen by sources who spoke to BuzzFeed.
Even as Trump repeatedly publicly stated during the 2016 campaign that he had no business dealings in Russia, he received at least 10 personal updates from Cohen on the status of the Trump Tower project in Moscow, according to Buzzfeed. Cohen, who was reportedly the point person on that project, is also said to have routinely updated Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr.
Trump also backed a plan put forth by Cohen to visit Russia during the campaign and meet personally with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in a bid to move the project along, Buzzfeed reports.
When asked by The Daily Beast to comment on the Trump Tower in Moscow, Lanny J. Davis, Michael Cohen’s legal and communications adviser, said, “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.”
Giuliani was a bit more talkative—albeit in a rather shifty way.
“Haven’t checked it out but if you believe Cohen I can get you a good all cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge?” he told The Daily Beast via text.
“Also why does SDNY say he is not telling the whole truth, ask him about his father in law,” he said.
Many politicians were quick to weigh in on the bombshell claims.
“If the President directed Cohen to lie to Congress, that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop,” tweeted Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI)
Rep Adam Schiff (D-CA) said, “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.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) also took to Twitter after the report’s publication, writing that “if Mueller does have multiple sources confirming Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, then we need to know this ASAP.”
-- Swin Suebsaeng contributed reporting