Report based on unnamed law enforcement sources being used to justify impeachment investigation in the House.
We have been here sooooooo many times before.
A media outlet publishes an article based on anonymous sources providing information that is so vague it cannot be proven or disproven, but which purports to (1) implicate Trump in a crime, (2) show collusion with the Russians, and/or (3) raise enough suspicions to justify a 3-5 day news cycle.
So many of these reports are dropped before a weekend, guaranteeing they will dominate the news cycle for days.
And in each and every instance the report is blown out of the water or substantially rewritten, other news outlets could not verify, or other news outlets themselves call the report into doubt. Even when there is a kernel of fact underlying the report, the spin is usually the key to why people click on it. This is all fed by the news media “Scoop” culture.
The typical reaction from people who are not part of #TheResistance, whether Trump supporters or not, is the preface “if true.”
I’ve seen a number of people say they follow a 24-hour rule on these bombshell reports. I think that’s too kind. It’s better to wait 48-72 hours, at a minimum, since so many of these bombshells take days, not hours, to reveal themselves to be duds.
And so we get to last night’s bombshell, from Buzzfeed:
President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.
The short version is that two unnamed federal law enforcement sources told Buzzfeed reporter Jason Leopold, the leading reporter on the story, that Mueller has evidence both through testimony and documentation that Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a potential Trump Tower Moscow hotel deal timeline.
The Buzzfeed reporters have not seen the evidence underlying their report:
Anthony Cormier is one of the two investigative reporter at BuzzfeedNews who co-authored the bombshell report published Thursday night — a report which claimed President Donald Trump directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie during Congressional testimony over discussions between the Trump Organization and Russian authorities about a Trump Tower Moscow project.
Cormier appeared on CNN’s New Day and revealed that he had not seen the evidence underlying his report.
Host Alisyn Camerota opened the interview by asking Cormier if he had seen the evidence to which Cormier replied: “Not personally.” He then clarified that “the folks we have talked to — two officials we have spoken to are 100 percent read into that aspect of the Special Counsel’s investigation”
“If true,” it’s very damaging. Depending on the specific facts, it could be criminal.
Do we know that to be true? Not based on the article. There are no names given as to who the witnesses are. That’s not unusual in such reporting, but the reporter involved Jason Leopold has a messy history with sources. Do those sources, assuming they exist and said what Buzzfeed reported, have first hand knowledge or like the recent McClatchy mess about Cohen’s cell phone pinging a tower near Prague, are the sources themselves just conveying hearsay?
Documentation is not provided, but we’re told such documentation is in the possession of Muller. There’s a kernel of fact there that prosecutors have access to a wide range of Cohen’s office and business files. So it’s possible there is incriminating documentation, but we can’t say that for sure or even with confidence.
Did Trump instruct Cohen to lie? No words are put in Trump’s mouth in the article to such effect. Cohen lying at the instruction of Trump may be a conclusion, not a fact. We just don’t know.
The Buzzfeed story, like the Steele Dossier, serves a purpose.
Just like the Dossier was used as justification for a FISA warrant on Carter Page and two years of Russia collusion conspiracy theories, the Buzzfeed story is being used by Democrats in the House to demand a House investigation be launched to see if there is evidence to support impeachment of Trump.
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
Based on the Buzzfeed report and numerous other articles showing @realDonaldTrump committed Obstruction of Justice and other possible felonies, it is time for the House Judiciary Committee to start holding hearings to establish a record of whether @POTUS committed high crimes.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 18, 2019
We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction. Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime. The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) January 18, 2019
How convenient that this story drops just after Democrats regain control of the House and its committees, and just three weeks before Cohen is scheduled to testify in the House.
What better way to justify pre-impeachment proceedings that otherwise would be unpopular than to be able to point to the smoke of the Buzzfeed story. That doesn’t mean that Buzzfeed sat on the story, but it might mean that Buzzfeed’s “federal law enforcement” sources did, just like so much has dripped out for two years at key political moments.
My position has remained the same since the start of anti-Trump Russiamania: At such point as someone releases actual evidence of collusion or criminality by Trump, we can judge. That hasn’t happened yet despite two years of leaks and investigations and media probing. Will it happen with the Buzzfeed story? Give it 48-72 hours, at a minimum.
This appears to be Trump’s first response:
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