By Robert A. Vella
Since his appointment as Special Counsel, Robert Mueller has run a tight ship. His investigation has been doggedly methodical, and it has been focused like a laser-beam on the job at hand. Mueller has barely said anything at all in public and there have been no appreciable leaks previously from his staff during the 20 months of its activities despite a daily flood of news coverage which has ranged from the factually sound to the wildly speculative.
But, Mueller’s silence was broken yesterday a day after BuzzFeed published an explosive article reporting evidence obtained from the Trump Organization which revealed that President Trump had instructed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations with Russia – to build a Trump Tower in Moscow – that occurred well into the 2016 presidential election campaign. While it has already been established that Cohen did lie to Congress about those negotiations, it has not yet been established that Trump ordered or influenced him to do so. Such evidence would constitute indictable and impeachable crimes by the President of the United States.
According to The Washington Post, that’s why Mueller felt compelled to speak on the matter – to quiet down the rising calls for impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives and among the general public. That could be true, but it might not be. Before opening up that can-of-worms, let’s examine Mueller’s statement and the counter-rebuttal from BuzzFeed.
Muller’s statement from spokesman Peter Carr:
“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.”
BuzzFeed‘s rebuttal from its top editor Ben Smith:
“We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”
Smith’s point is valid. Mueller is asserting that BuzzFeed‘s “description” and “characterization” are inaccurate, not that story it reported is false. Furthermore, since Democrats in Congress continue to insist that any move on impeachment must wait until Mueller’s long-anticipated report on Russian collusion is released, Muller’s rationale for commenting on the BuzzFeed article seems rather suspect.
While not disputing The Washington Post article, I’d like to offer another possible reason for Mueller’s public statement. The Special Counsel might just be angry over the leaks which BuzzFeed based its story on. In other words, his panties might be in a bunch. Although we don’t know the identity of the two individuals, they are likely to work inside the Department of Justice and possibly Mueller’s own office; and, if the information they gave to BuzzFeed was Grand Jury evidence, then the leaks would be a criminal offense.
An additional indicator is Michael Cohen who isn’t saying anything about the BuzzFeed story. In a similar incident last year in which McClatchy reported that Cohen’s cellphone signals were detected in Prague, he adamantly denied ever being there. From: Michael Cohen Says He’s “Never” Been to Prague. He Told Me a Different Story.
This report claimed that Cohen, Trump’s well-known fixer, had secretly met with Russian officials in an EU country that August. The next day, Steele sent Fusion GPS a new memo noting this Kremlin insider source had said the supposed Cohen meeting had taken place in Prague.
Ever since the Steele memos became public in January 2017—when BuzzFeed posted the documents—Cohen has steadfastly denied participating in any such meeting. Last week, when McClatchy reported that special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Cohen did secretly travel to Prague in the summer of 2016—a report no other media outlet has yet confirmed—Cohen revived his denial. He tweeted, “Bad reporting, bad information and bad story by same reporter Peter Stone @McClatchyDC. No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague. I was in LA with my son. Proven!”
Why isn’t Cohen issuing a similar denial now? Maybe the BuzzFeed story does have merit. Regardless, the public demand to see Mueller’s evidence keeps growing. Secrecy is no longer a viable option.
In other news, the U.S. Supreme Court does not appear willing to take up an appeal by the Trump Administration to overturn lower court rulings which upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented by President Obama in 2012.