Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office has disputed a report in BuzzFeed News that U.S. President Donald Trump directed his former lawyer to lie to Congress about a real estate project in Moscow as Congressional Democrats vowed to investigate allegations.
In a first for the Mueller investigation, the Special Counsel’s Office commented on a media report, saying in a January 18 statement that the allegations, based on two unnamed law enforcement sources, were not "accurate."
"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," Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller's office, said in the statement, though he did not say the entire article was wrong.
BuzzFeed said in a statement that it was standing by its reporting and urged the Special Counsel “to make clear what he’s disputing."
The White House has called the allegations “categorically false,” but leading Democrat lawmakers said the possibility the report is true was a “concern of the greatest magnitude” and would seek an inquiry into the matter.
"These allegations may prove unfounded, but, if true, they would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice," California Republican Adam Schiff, House intelligence committee chairman, said in a statement.
"We will do what's necessary to find out if it's true," he added.
BuzzFeed News reported on January 17 that Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations over the Moscow project during the 2016 campaign.
The report, which quotes the two law enforcement officials "with direct knowledge of the investigation" into the project, has not been independently confirmed.
The allegations put Trump further at risk in an investigation that has already resulted in convictions of or guilty pleas from four former campaign aides, including ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Trump tweeted that Cohen was “lying to reduce his jail time,” although Cohen has already been sentenced to three years for a number of political and financial crimes that came to light through the Special Counsel investigation by Robert Mueller.
Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said in a statement that any suggestion that Trump told Cohen to lie is "categorically false."
Some Senate Intelligence Committee investigators have said they hope to ask Cohen about the BuzzFeed report when he testifies behind closed doors in February, Reuters reported.