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BuzzFeed News raised chaos online late Thursday when it published explosive allegations that President Donald Trump personally directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Organization’s dealings with Russia to secure a Trump Tower development project in Moscow.
The publication based its reporting on testimony from two anonymous law enforcement officials it says are involved in investigations relating to the matter.
According to the sources, the president received up to ten personal updates from Cohen about how the talks were progressing at a time when Trump was publicly denying that he had any business ties to Russia.
Cohen has already admitted lying about the dates when the negotiations with Russia ended but BuzzFeed reports that Trump “personally instructed [Cohen] to lie… in order to obscure Trump’s involvement”.
The sources claim that special counsel Robert Mueller possesses corroborative evidence in the form of “interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
Additionally, the sources cited also claim Trump encouraged Cohen to arrange a meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during the election campaign.
If true, this is a pretty big deal. If Mueller has evidence to substantiate this, as BuzzFeed’s sources allege, then its proof of presidential obstruction of justice. But nonetheless, the reactions online were still along partisan lines.
Some conservative pundits weren’t sure how to respond, but recognized the weight of the allegations.
If this story is correct, it’s both inexcusable behavior and a full-scale disaster for Trump https://t.co/NKsPyRICkz— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 18, 2019
The president’s most loyal right-wing supporters outright rejected the reporting, calling into question the report’s reliance on unnamed sources and focused on a Friday morning CNN interview in which the reporter behind the piece said he had not personally seen the corroborating evidence.
Without evidence other than statements from secret government agents this Buzzfeed claim reads a whole lot like a planted story designed to shape a narrative— Jack Posobiec ☘️ (@JackPosobiec) January 18, 2019
The BuzzFeed reporter who wrote the story about President Trump allegedly ordering Michael Cohen to lie about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow admitted on CNN today that he hasn’t seen any evidence to corroborate it. https://t.co/RxGbAT86PN— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) January 18, 2019
Trump then tweeted that his his old lawyer is a liar.
Kevin Corke, @FoxNews “Don’t forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars....” Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2019
While most Republicans have been quiet on the report, Democrat lawmakers immediately demanded an investigation into the reports.
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
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.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 18, 2019
Oh, fyi the first Article of Impeachment for Richard Nixon was Obstruction of Justice. https://t.co/WjsdSAv7lR
Most liberal internet users, however, couldn’t resist the opportunity to drop an impeachment meme.
Oops. Train crashed today as trump told Cohen to lie and obstruct justice. Impeachment soon? If pence is impeached, pelosi is president. pic.twitter.com/mcJGbpcj5n— Jim woods (@Jimwood74237650) January 18, 2019
Good thing you stopped the Democrats from going to Afghanistan. Now they can run with the news of today. BUZZFEED: TRUMP DIRECTED MICHAEL COHEN TO LIE TO CONGRESS ABOUT MOSCOW TOWER PROJECT pic.twitter.com/0vDidkzaIW— kathy best burger (@kathybestburge1) January 18, 2019
And you KNOW Michael Cohen has this on tape...Donnie telling him to lie to Congress...it's about to go down, folks.. pic.twitter.com/GAbYToeULl— Gringaloca723 (@vickie_baron) January 18, 2019
This article has been updated.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology.