President Donald Trump told his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his involvement in a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to a bombshell report from BuzzFeed News on Thursday night.
The president also told Cohen he was on board with a plan to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign in order to secure the deal, according to BuzzFeed. “Make it happen,” Trump reportedly said.
The news organization spoke with two unnamed federal law enforcement officials involved in the investigation who noted special counsel Robert Mueller learned of the deception through interviews with people in the Trump Organization and “internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
Cohen confirmed the subterfuge in his own interviews with the special counsel’s office, BuzzFeed noted.
A spokesman for Mueller disputed BuzzFeed’s reporting.
UPDATE: The special counsel's office has taken the rare step of issuing a statement in response to our report on Michael Cohen being directed by Trump to lie to Congress:https://t.co/WA2fZcdK9upic.twitter.com/PY1r9LxDid— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) January 19, 2019
HuffPost has reached out to the White House for comment. In a statement to USA Today, Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said his client would decline any questions related to the story “out of respect for Mr. Mueller’s and the Office of Special Counsel’s investigation.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that if the story is true, “President Trump must resign or be impeached.”
If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached.— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) January 18, 2019
The congressman later retweeted a post from USC law professor Orin Kerr, who pointed out that anyone who tells someone to lie to Congress has also broken the law. Castro is the brother of Julián Castro, who recently announced his run for the White House in 2020.
Trump reportedly pursued the controversial project in the middle of his 2016 presidential campaign, the culmination of a decades-long dream of building a tower in Russia, The Washington Post reported in 2017. At the same time, he repeatedly told supporters on the campaign trail that he had no business in Russia.
Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in November as part of Mueller’s ongoing investigation. He admitted that discussions surrounding Trump Tower Moscow went on for at least six months longer than he told Congress. At the time, the attorney said also Trump was more involved in discussions surrounding the deal than he let on and said he also spoke to the president’s family, including Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
After Cohen’s plea, Trump accused his former fixer of “lying about a project that everybody knew about.”
“I mean, we were very open with it. … This deal was a very public deal,” Trump said in November. “Everybody knows about this deal. I wasn’t trying to hide anything.”
Mueller’s office is investigating the Trump campaign’s affiliations with Russia and has been looking into the tower deal in Moscow to determine if there was any collusion with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. Trump has vehemently denied the existence of any collusion, and Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. have both said they were only minimally involved in any potential Moscow deal.
Cohen is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Feb. 7. Democrats gained control of the House earlier this month.
This article has been updated with a comment on Twitter from Rep. Joaquin Castro.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.