On at 7:11 p.m., Pacific time, Jan. 17, BuzzFeed News filed a blockbuster stink bomb that quickly became the hot lead story for TV’s opinion shows.
The report revealed that “President Donald Trump directed his long-time attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officers involved in an investigation of the matter.”
The story also said that Trump supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.
Reporters who broke the BuzzFeed story are Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Goldstein, both of whom were interviewed on phone calls by broadcasters.
Although Trump has repeatedly told the public that he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.
Now the two law enforcement sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.
On his campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interest in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal.
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump organization and internal company emails. There were also text messages and a cache of other documents.
Trump said that Cohen was lying about the Moscow project to “reduce his jail time.”
On Thursday, New York Times Reporter Maggie Haberman wrote that Cohen, the personal lawyer and fixer for President Trump, has acknowledged that he had paid the owner of a technology services company to help rig results of an online poll to assist Trump, as he pondered whether to run for president.
In a post on Twitter about his actions, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Cohen said he had done so at the direction of Trump and regretted it.
The Journal reported that in early 2015, before Trump declared himself a candidate for president, Cohen gave $12,000 to $13,000 in cash stuffed in a Walmart bag to John Gauger, the owner of RedFinch Solutions, who also works for Liberty University. The money was in exchange for help boosting Trump’s name in two online polls.
Cohen has agreed to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Feb. 7. His testimony will be restricted to avoid issues directly related to the special counsel investigation into whether there was collusion by anyone in the Trump campaign with Russian officials.
Over the weekend, Trump, in an interview on Fox News, tried to urge prosecutors and members of the media to investigate Cohen’s family and he blasted his former fixer as “weak.”