Friday, January 18, 2019

UPDATED: Mueller Nukes Buzzfeed--Why?

Conservative blogs are accurately characterizing the Special Counsel office's statement re Buzzfeed's fake news story as "rare." As Tucker Carlson put it, Mueller's office has virtually never commented on anything, but in this statement Mueller's office flatly rejects Buzzfeed's claim that President Trump personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress regarding the Trump Moscow deal--which was basically moribund by the time 2016 rolled around. Fox News says it nicely:

The statement is remarkable in that Mueller's team rarely issues statements in response to news stories. But BuzzFeed's story sparked immense interest from Democrats, who called for renewed investigations and even suggested the allegations could be a basis for impeachment proceedings.

For example, Adam Schiff immediately rushed out onto the limb:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., whose committee is already investigating the president and his ties to Russia, called the allegations in the report “the most serious to date.”
“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,” Schiff said in a statement. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”

And that was a crowded limb:

This may be the smoking gun in the Russia investigation - CNNPolitics

Trump Reportedly Told Cohen to Lie to Congress

If Trump Told Cohen to Lie, Impeachment Is Coming | WIRED

Trump had Michael Cohen lie to Congress about Moscow Trump ...

Mueller filing says Manafort lied about contacts with Trump ...

After Schiff and the rest rushed out onto this limb, Team Mueller promptly sawed that limb off:

“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 Friday.

Clearly the most interesting aspect to this tempest in a teapot is precisely the fact that Team Mueller so promptly rejected a fake news story--something they have rarely done. The question is: Why?

This is pure speculation, but I do wonder whether Team Mueller issued this rare refutation of a patently fake news story in anticipation of the confirmation of Bill Barr as Attorney General. Mueller has played fast and loose with leaks and rumors over the past two years, but I suspect he knows the rules of the Russia Hoax game are about to change, and that Barr intends to keep him on a short leash.

UPDATE: Today, 1/20/19, Maria Bartiromo interviewed Congressman John Ratcliffe from TX, a very experience Federal prosecutor. Bartiromo asked Ratcliffe what was behind the unusual step Mueller took in repudiating the Buzzfeed fake news re Cohen and Trump. Ratcliffe was in agreement with our analysis. He stated that Mueller's action should be tied in to what happened "earlier in the week"--the testimony of AG nominee Bill Barr before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ratcliffe posed the question, Why did Mueller speak out about this particular false report when their have been "dozens" of such reports in the past concerning which Mueller has remained silent? Ratcliffe answered his own question: This isn't such a coincidence; Mueller's repudiation happened two days after the first time that an AG nominee said, "I'm going to grade the Special Counsel's homework, and I'm going to get to the bottom of all of this, and I'm going to get to a fair and expeditious conclusion to this matter." Ratcliffe added that "this wasn't so much a coincidence as a cause and effect." Ratcliffe then tied the bogus Buzzfeed report in to the the Cohen plea agreement--the fact that if Cohen had claimed that Trump had suborned perjury, the Cohen plea would have led with that claim. But that's not what happened.


  1. Since Trump is the only person (other than Mueller and Cohen) who'd know if the story was a lie, I'm guessing Trump told a WH lawyer to ask Mueller if he was knowingly participating in the fraud. I mean, how much institutional corruption does Mueller think Trump will tolerate?

  2. It isn't the first time, by the way. The Special Counsel office also more or less torpedoed the McClatchey resurrection of the Cohen-in-Prague story last year by telling people to not believe everything you read in a paper.

    I think, though, if the Buzzfeed story was untrue, Mueller had no choice but issue the statement. Cohen testifies to Congress in February, and if the story is untrue, Cohen will prove it then, so at that point Mueller gets accused of sitting on the truth of such an explosive accusation when he could have quelled the storm 3 weeks previous. I think they waited until tonight rather than do this yesterday because they had to make sure the story itself wasn't source from Cohen and his "lawyers". When they confirmed Cohen or his "lawyers" weren't the source/s, they went public with correction.

    I hope this was all a mole hunt, but the far more likely explanation is that someone in the FBI/DoJ thought it would be a safe lie to tell because Mueller rarely comments on stories. They figured one of two things- the story would go around the world for 3 weeks, and then either be confirmed by Cohen in February, or, if Cohen denided it, then the story would be quietly memory-holed, much like happened to Brian Ross and ABC.

  3. dfp21, I certainly wouldn't bet against your explanation. On top of the Ohr revelations re Steele meeting with Weissman, Mueller's deputy who is notoriously unethical, this was flirting with disaster if Barr gets confirmed in a week or so and immediately starts demanding explanations and turning OIG on their whole operation.

    Yancey, I think in the ordinary course of things the dynamics you outline would be in effect. I hafta wonder though, because of the specificity of the denial, whether there were additional factors in play. I think it was interesting that they waited as long as they did, as you point out. I think a denial from Cohen's team to Mueller would have happened almost instantly, so there must be some other reason.

    Was this a miscalculation on the part of someone on Mueller's team? Did a much tougher response/demand that expected come from DoJ/WH? It's interesting.

  4. Buzzfeed was the tool used by Brennan to publicly initiate the "insurance policy" back in January 2017, and they were once again selected this week to initiate the next phase of the coup by spearheading the new impeachment drive by the House. This was all carefully orchestrated as part of the psyop leading to the first televised hearings in mid February. Mueller's hand was forced with the public denial because Barr has made it clear that he will not allow the Mueller report to be politicized and a leak traceable to his office would further undermine their credibility at a critical time.

    At a time when the news media's credibility is near an all-time low, we are about to be flooded with major stories; e.g. the shutdown, wall, Mueller report, and next Supreme Court nomination. I fear that one victim of this news avalanche will be the rightful prosecution of the coup culprits. Burying their misdeeds will be much easier in this hurricane of argumentation in the press.

  5. Unknown:

    Mueller's hand was forced with the public denial because Barr has made it clear that he will not allow the Mueller report to be politicized and a leak traceable to his office would further undermine their credibility at a critical time.

    I agree that the leak part is critical, but the Ohr revelation of Weissman actually meeting with Steele is huge, too. Recall, I previously discussed the admission that Weissman was briefed in on the Russia Hoax as it was forming (Why Andrew Weissmann?), but the revelation of his actual meeting with Steele and the timing just before the FISA makes him a likely accomplice in a conspiracy to commit a fraud on the FISC. Danger ahead.

    At a time when the news media's credibility is near an all-time low, we are about to be flooded with major stories; e.g. the shutdown, wall, Mueller report, and next Supreme Court nomination.

    Yes, and don't forget the China deal and the next NorK summit with Rocketboy--all very presidential. The Dems may find impeachment a much harder row to hoe than they imagined. Trump will fight, and will likely be looking to go on the offensive. The testimony revelations of the past week may be the beginning of that, along with the Barr appointment. But Trump has LOTS more ammunition. Those who have been moaning about the failure to declass everything may find out why Trump has been keeping his powder dry.

  6. I found the Cohen retreat today interesting- I think it explains Buzzfeed's refusal to admit it made a mistake. If Buzzfeed's sources were outside of Mueller's team, then you retract the story when Mueller himself tells you it is wrong. So I think one of two things has to be true here- either someone on Mueller's team decided to lie to Leopold and Cormier, or the reporters source was Cohen himself- either directly or indirectly through Lanny Davis or through the Democratic members of the oversight committees that will hear Cohen's testimony if he appears.

    I think Cohen lied to someone about his dealings with the special counsel- that is the origin of the Buzzfeed story. It took Mueller 36 hours to rebuke the story not because they had to recheck their evidence as claimed in the WaPo story- that explanation is ridiculous on its face- it took 36 hours to figure out who Buzzfeed's source was. I think Cohen was told over the weekend that if his public testimony differs in any way with the testimony he gave in return for his plea deal, he will spend a decade in prison, not just a couple of years. Cohen, if he appears, will refuse to answer any questions related to his SC testimony. The more I see of Cohen, the less intelligent he seems- I don't think he can keep his stories straight if he opens his mouth.

  7. It's an interesting theory, Yancey. Re Buzzfeed not retracting, well, that's Buzzfeed's normal MO, or Jonah Peretti's MO. And as for the basic plausibility of the story, as everyone smart has said, if Cohen had such knowledge he wouldn't be facing jail time and we'd have an inkling of it from the plea deal. Still, Buzzfeed/Peretti screwing around with John Lott is one thing, screwing around with Mueller is quite a different thing. I read that Trump's lawyers did contact Mueller immediately, so that feeds into the 36 hours. Your theory seems to cover the bases.

  8. I think my theory is right because it isn't the first time Cohen and Davis have done this- Davis was publicly claiming Trump had foreknowledge of the Trump Tower meeting just last Summer, and had to retract the statement, and I think he did so for the exact same reason- the Mueller team rebuked him, too- but privately that time as Cohen was still in plea negotiations.

  9. I see Cohen has agreed to obey a Senate subpoena for closed door testimony. I suspect the House will also subpoena, but Cohen will deflect all questions related to his plea deal.

  10. Yancey, I agree. Lanny Davis basically had no business representing any client in a criminal case like this, simply based on a lack of experience. Perhaps he told Cohen his (Davis') Clinton connections could do the hapless Cohen some good. Sorry!

    I've lost track of an earlier article I read about Davis's representation, but here's an article that pretty much says it all in the title: Blue State Blues: Clinton Lawyer Lanny Davis Exploited Michael Cohen to Attack Trump. And here's an excerpt that uses Davis' own words to place him in a dubious light re professional ethics--was he wholly committed to the benefit of his client or to a political cause:

    "In a remarkably candid moment, Davis told CNN: “Why am I representing [Cohen]? They [Trump’s lawyers] fear that he has the truth about Donald Trump. He will someday speak the truth about Donald Trump.”

    "He accused Trump of telling Cohen to pay McDougal in “cash,” adding, “only drug dealers and mobsters talk about cash,” though the audio was unclear and no cash was ever paid.

    "The leak did not help Cohen: a month later, he pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes.

    "Davis rushed to highlight what he felt was the key part of Cohen’s pleading: “Today [Cohen] stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime,” he tweeted. He noted Cohen was “fulfilling his promise made on July 2nd to put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump” — the reason Davis had cited for taking the case.

    "Davis admitted to Chuck Todd of MSNBC that there was actually no new evidence that Trump had committed a crime, and that it “may come down to Mr. Cohen’s word versus Mr. Trump’s.” What was important, to him, was that Cohen had made the accusation in court, and prosecutors approved it, placing the president under suspicion.

    "That delighted Davis and the media, but it did not save Cohen from prison."

    And this:

    Lanny Davis's walk-back of his bombshell claim to CNN is more complicated than it looks. And experts say it causes Michael Cohen some new problems.