Trump had Michael Cohen lie to Congress about Moscow Trump Tower project: BuzzFeed

/ CBS News

Cohen cooperating with special counsel

President Trump instructed his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Trump Tower talks, BuzzFeed reported late Thursday, citing two federal law enforcement officials involved in investigating the case. The story drew immediate harsh reactions from Democratic lawmakers and a denial from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.

CBS News has not independently confirmed the BuzzFeed account.

According to the online news site, Mr. Trump also backed a plan Cohen set up to visit Russia during the presidential campaign to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the tower negotiations.

And the BuzzFeed sources said Mr. Trump and his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., got "regular, detailed updates" on the development from Cohen, who led the project for them.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly and forcefully denied having any business dealings with Moscow.

But in November, Cohen pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to Congress regarding work he did on the Moscow Trump Tower push. The plea indicated that discussions extended much longer into the 2016 presidential campaign than Cohen had said — into June 2016.

Michael Cohen walks out of a court building in New York on Dec. 12, 2018 Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty

BuzzFeed's sources said Cohen "told (Special Counsel Robert Mueller) that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump's involvement." Cohen had claimed the talks ended in January 2016.

BuzzFeed says, "Cohen's testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia."

Cohen legal adviser Lanny Davis 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."

Democrats were quick with scathing words about the allegations in BuzzFeed's account.

Among them: Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, who tweeted, "If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, of California, also weighed in on Twitter:

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. https://t.co/GljBAFqOjh

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 18, 2019

Fellow California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu didn't mince words:

This stunning Trump Tower Moscow story establishes a clear case of Obstruction of Justice, a felony. I've lost count now how many times @realDonaldTrump has engaged in Obstruction of Justice.

Oh, fyi the first Article of Impeachment for Richard Nixon was Obstruction of Justice. https://t.co/WjsdSAv7lR

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 18, 2019

But Giuliani was having none of it, releasing a statement saying, "If you believe Cohen, I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge."

Ivanka Trump issued a statement through Peter Mirijanian, spokesperson for Abbe Lowell, the ethics counsel for Ms. Trump saying: "Putting aside questions about the accuracy, credibility or motive of the source, over the years, The Trump Organization considered and evaluated projects in countries all around the world, and nothing was different or wrong about one that might be in Russia. However, Ms. Trump did not know about this proposal until after a non-binding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the Organization about the proposal, never visited the prospective project site and, even internally, was only minimally involved. Her role was limited to reminding Mr. Cohen that, should an actual deal come to fruition (which it did not) the project, like any other with the Trump name, must conform with the highest design and architectural standards and to recommending prospective architects to consider."

CBS News has not received responses to requests for comment from the White House, the Trump Organization or an attorney for Donald Trump Jr.

First published on January 18, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

U.S.-NEW YORK-MICHAEL COHEN-SENTENCE

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