Mueller's spokesman issued the rare statement on Friday and challenged the controversial claims
Robert Mueller is responding to claims about his investigation for the first time.
After BuzzFeed published an article on Thursday claiming authorities have proof President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress — an obstruction of justice and an impeachable offense, if true — Mueller’s team hit back.
In a very rare statement, which was issued on Friday, the special counsel investigating the alleged conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials challenged the story’s accuracy.
According to BuzzFeed reporters Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, Trump, 72, allegedly told his then-attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
“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,” his spokesman, Peter Carr, told PEOPLE in a statement.
In response, BuzzFeed said in its own statement, “We are continuing to report and determine what the special counsel is disputing. We remain confident in the accuracy of our report.”
On Saturday, BuzzFeed said in a new statement provided to PEOPLE, “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.”
After Mueller’s team released the statement, Trump responded on social media.
“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!” he wrote in a tweet.
“A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!” Trump added.
Donald Trump Jr. also responded on Twitter, laughing at the backlash Buzzfeed had received after issuing the report.
Mueller, 74, has said in court documents Cohen’s lie was an effort to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — understood to be the moniker for Trump, according to BuzzFeed.
Trump’s relationship with Russia has been a central controversy dating back to his campaign and he and other administration officials initially fiercely denied any contact or business dealings, which later investigation proved to be untrue.
The president continues to deny any conspiracy with Russia, which the U.S. intelligence community has said intervened in the 2016 presidential election to boost his chances of winning.
The BuzzFeed report — which was dismissed by the president’s legal team — cites “two federal law enforcement officials involved in [the] investigation” and later notes an even lengthier array of sources, apparently confirmed by the officials.
“The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents,” BuzzFeed reported. “Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.”
In response, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Ballhaus he had not yet read it, but then, in a dig at Cohen’s credibility wrote, “If you believe Cohen I can get you a good all cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE and, according to BuzzFeed, did not respond to their questions before their article was published.
Appearing on Fox Friday morning, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley reportedly said he wouldn’t “give any credence or credibility to Michael Cohen” and that “here is nothing in that piece that can be corroborated.”
“This is absolutely ludicrous that we are giving any kind of credence or credibility to a news outlet like BuzzFeed,” Gidley said.
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Appearing on CNN, Cormier, one of the BuzzFeed reporters, was adamant in the veracity of what he learned. “I am rock solid. My sourcing on this goes beyond the two [officials] that are on the record,” he said.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes was quick to note that the obstruction described by BuzzFeed is identical, in broad strokes, to the first article of impeachment brought against President Richard Nixon in the ’70s before he resigned in disgrace so as to avoid a full House vote and trial in the Senate.
Democratic lawmakers, too, voiced concern about the BuzzFeed article and vowed to investigate.
“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,” Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”