WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump took an unusual step Saturday: He thanked Robert Mueller.
Normally a critic over the Russia investigation, Trump said he is gratified that Mueller and the special counsel’s office disputing a highly publicized news report that had accused the president of ordering former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
“I very much appreciate that,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
In a rare public statement, Mueller’s office on Friday criticized a BuzzFeed News report saying that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the timing of talks on a proposed Trump project in Russia.
“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,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office.
Despite worldwide coverage and big interest, Mueller’s office has stayed mostly quiet on reports regarding the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The BuzzFeed report alleged that Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Organization’s pursuit of a deal to build a luxury residential high-rise in the center of Moscow, hoping to conceal these actions during his presidential bid.
The story also asserted that Mueller’s office knew of the president’s alleged actions after obtaining information through internal emails, text messages and multiple interviews.
Trump and aides denounced both the story and the media in general for reporting on it.
“It’s a total phony story,” Trump said.
BuzzFeed defended its story.
“We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it,” editor-in-chief Ben Smith tweeted, “and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”