As federal investigators continue their search for a smoking gun, leave it to BuzzFeed News to jump the gun instead. Last Thursday, the publication unveiled their “bombshell report” which made the accusation of President Donald Trump “personally instructing” his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress during a 2017 testimony — an act which would obviously obstruct justice in the DOJ’s investigation into White House corruption. Come the very next morning, however, the special counsel’s office handling the investigation denied the article being factual.
The report, written by Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, cited “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation” into President Trump’s secret business deal to establish a Trump Tower Moscow (originally reported in 2017 by The Washington Post). Readers should understand there is evidence proving the existence of this deal, including a 2015 letter of intent signed by Trump and confirmation of the proposal from Trump Organization insiders, while conspiracy to commit perjury is the new scandal being debated on Capitol Hill.
On Friday, a public spokesperson for special counsel Mueller’s team released a short statement declaring “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.” This is unprecedented considering the DOJ office routinely declines to comment on any reports surrounding the investigation.
So how bad was their report exactly? Well, it’s important to understand that BuzzFeed’s cited evidence, unavailable for the public eye by design, are “interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents” that are only mentioned by the sources briefly, not described or reviewed for authenticity by BuzzFeed themselves — raising questions whether their journalists even know what the hell they’re talking about.
This doesn’t exonerate the White House and their (former) associates. As noted in our previous report, Cohen did plead guilty to lying to Congress in November after being convicted for fraud and campaign finance violations. It’s safe to speculate that a convicted liar, earning his place on the Trump lackey payroll, committing perjury in order to protect his former boss. Name any #MAGA devotee and they would understand the president’s desire for administrative loyalty — especially when the deal would cost over $300 million in potential profits for his company. The motivation is there.
As a news publication, however, you can’t just state these likely events as facts without reviewing the proper evidence. After all, credible journalism isn’t built upon leaps of faith. The same can’t be said of propaganda — which is the new spin coming from the White House. “I think that the BuzzFeed piece was a disgrace to our country,” President Trump told White House reporters Saturday evening. “It was a disgrace to journalism, and I think also that the coverage by the mainstream media was disgraceful, and I think it’s going to take a long time for the mainstream media to recover its credibility. It’s lost tremendous credibility. And believe me, that hurts me when I see that.”
Arguably, such circumstances only help the president’s narrative. It’s not unreasonable to see how bad journalism, used to bolster this meme of the “fake news” being “the enemy of the people”, shifts his defenders towards opinionated propagandists of the internet to get their coverage instead of honest actors. The faults of the media, until corrected, only strengthens his image — which makes BuzzFeed’s response all the more disastrous. Instead of admitting mistakes, issuing retractions until obtaining proper evidence or firing reporters for debatable malpractice, BuzzFeed had the gal to stand by their article entirely by telling their audience they should take a leap of faith and trust the publication will be proven right in the future.
“As we’ve reconfirmed our reporting,” said Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for the BuzzFeed News, “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.” He was joined by editor-in-chief Ben Smith who added: “We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”
This question, exactly like BuzzFeed’s sources and the specific content of these documents, remains a mystery worthy of scepticism. Should it need explaining why reporters need to read these incredible documents before accusing someone of an incredible charge? Even other mainstream media outlets such as The Washington Post and CNN, known for their own laughable mistakes on the Trump-Russia story, admitted they were unable to independently verify the report’s sources and claims, opting to note the accusatory article exists and explain the details of the Moscow deal. Cohen, who’s reportedly not one of the sources for the story, refused to comment on the article following the special counsel’s statement, according to his legal and communications adviser Lanny Davis.
Democrats haven’t stopped capitalising on obstruction, however. Days before its publication, Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr testified that ordering someone to lie to Congress would constitute a crime, agreeing with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that “persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction”. Barr also wrote this in a memo to the DOJ months before Trump nominated him as the new attorney general. By the standards set by the president’s own team, he would be committing a crime if the report was true. BuzzFeed just doesn’t have a smoking gun to prove it yet, let alone knowledge of the crime narrative outside of gossip.
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
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