Saturday, January 19, 2019

Not Accurate

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. -- Office of the Special Counsel.
If this is the first story the special counsel has felt compelled to dispute, does that mean he had no objection to all the others that have come out before now? -- Peter Baker, New York Times.
These things cannot both be true:

  • The Mueller investigation is a witch hunt fomented by a Mueller-Comey-Strzok cabal of Trump haters.
  • The statement from the Office of the Special Counsel calling BuzzFeed's "description of specific statements to the special counsel's office" "not accurate" definitively refutes the two-year long fake news crusade against Trump by the media.
Parsing the special counsel's statement, it seems to refer to the "description of specific statements to the special counsel's office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office." Period. Note the repetition of the word "office." The evidence may or may not exist. The office of the special counsel may or may not be in possession of it. They do not confirm or deny that they are not confirming or denying. 

But "BuzzFeed's description" is "not accurate." Where does the crucial word "office" appear in the BuzzFeed description?
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, text messages, and a cache of other documents.
"The special counsel's office learned..." It is not accurate to say that the office learned (through interviews, etc.). This "inaccuracy" could mean simply that the office of the special counsel has not yet determined that Trump directed Cohen to lie.  


Anonymous said...

The BF article was false, simple as that. Trump's actual policies and actions are bad enough not to have to make up stuff about him and distract...

Sandwichman said...

Gosh, Anonymous, you know so much more than anybody else! Who's your source?

Anonymous said...

According to the Washington Post and New York Times, the Mueller team made clear the BF article was false:

Mueller Statement Disputes Report That Trump Directed Cohen to Lie

WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election disputed on Friday a report that said President Trump had directed Michael D. Cohen, his longtime lawyer and fixer, to lie to Congress about his role in negotiations to build a skyscraper in Moscow.

The rare public statement by a spokesman for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, challenged the facts of an article published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday saying that Mr. Cohen had told prosecutors about being pressured by the president before his congressional testimony....

Anonymous said...

Please read the NYTimes and Washington Post, possibly I have misread but the supposed facts reported in the BF article were evidently denied by the Mueller team:

In a rare move, Mueller’s office denies BuzzFeed report that Trump told Cohen to lie about Moscow project

Anonymous said...

I have read the Washington Post and New York Times articles, I have read the statement by the Mueller team. What am I not understanding? The president can be terrible, but the accusations in the BF article have been flatly denied by the Mueller team. Truth is important to me and supposing I can read coherently, I know the BF article was false.

I am not arguing in any way, only trying to explain how I know what is false. I am simply saying the NYTimes and Washington Post and Mueller team statement make the BF article false.

Please explain what I am misreading if you do not agree.

2slugbaits said...

Could the "inaccurate" part be that it's not the Special Counsel, but the Southern District of NY that has the goods?

Anonymous said...

Please look at Glenn Greenwald, Michael Tracey, Aaron Mate for considerably more references:

Ronan Farrow had a source contradict the BF report early on and decided not to use the BF report:

Anonymous said...

The NYTimes noted this yesterday, but the point is that the Mueller team has denied the BF accusation now:

The New York Times has not independently confirmed the BuzzFeed report. One person familiar with Mr. Cohen’s testimony to the special counsel’s prosecutors said that Mr. Cohen did not state that the president had pressured him to lie to Congress.... said...


The statemnt is very carefully crafted. It disputes "descriptions" of various things It never says that the Special Counsel's office has determined or knows that Trump did not order Cohen to lie. It is about statements about what certain sources they have said, not what the underlying facts are.

As of now, we really do not know those.

It is also clear that the Mueller team is carefully proetecting itself and its reputation, especially given that a new AG is coming in who will apparently eefuse to recuse himself from the investigation, even as he has said that he will let it be completed, although possibly not to allow its final report to be publicly released.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, but I am only recording what I have read from authoritative sources including Mr. Mueller. What more can I do?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rosser,

I am sorry but I too am a scholar and I can read with accuracy and the BF article was false according to the Mueller team. Even the BF reporters directly contradicted each other in interviews. The BF article was false.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Mueller knew and flatly denied the BF report:

BuzzFeed and 'if true’: The day when no one knew anything
By Erik Wemple

Sandwichman said...


Well, if the New York Times and the Washington Post say it, it must be true! If you are indeed a scholar you will know that there is a difference between "not accurate" and "false." There is also a difference between what the SCO says and what the NYT or WaPo thinks what it said meant.

I'm sure that a lot of what I write is "not accurate" in the sense that I have misunderstood some source or have overstated the significance of some particular factor. A plausible explanation of the SCO's statement is from Marcy at Empty Wheel. ...

But I want to get back to what I thought was my main point: that the discrepancy in the BuzzFeed article criticized by the SCO does not exonerate Trump or prove that there is no evidence of obstruction of justice in the matter related to Cohen. The overreaction to the SCO rebuttal has now matched the overreaction to the BuzzFeed "bombshell." When something seems "too good to be true," it probably is. But on the other hand, when a refutation is improbably vague, the vagueness is probably purposeful.

Anonymous said...


I wholly appreciate the further explanation and will go along with your nuanced explanation. I was obviously intemperate in using the word "false," which I used because the Mueller team statement read to me as a direct refutation.

As for the president, I sought to state my case without him in mind. The explanation you provided was surely necessary for me.

Thank you for the essay and criticism of my comments.

Anonymous said...

I need to read with more nuance.


When something seems "too good to be true," it probably is. But on the other hand, when a refutation is improbably vague, the vagueness is probably purposeful. said...

I do not get thanked, Anonymous?

We have a carefully nuanced statement from a spokesman for Mueller. It does not use the word "false." Statements saying "Mueller knew and flatly denied the BF report" is not precisely accurate or defensible, although Carr (not Mueller himself) clearly criticized important elements of it.

Sandwichman said...

Not to worry, Barkley, I'll thank you. Thanks! And you're welcome, Anonymous. Always happy to clarify a controversial point.

Calgacus said...

Well, it's as provable as anything in public life - beyond reasonable doubt - that there is no Mueller investigation. What he's doing bears no resemblance to any genuine investigation anywhere ever as it evinces a complete lack of interest in truth. So political witchhunt, comparable to the McCarthy era hijinks, is the best description.

Mueller's models seem to be Captain Renault in Casablanca: Round up the usual suspects! and the inspector in Elio Petri's Investigations of a Citizen above Suspicion. Just making this comment on the idle hope that somebody else here saw the second movie, though Casablanca gives the idea well enough.

Anonymous said...

Inside the Mueller team’s decision to dispute BuzzFeed’s explosive story on Trump and Cohen

Anonymous said...

...the special counsel’s office meant the statement to be a denial of the central theses of the BuzzFeed story — particularly those that referenced what Cohen had told the special counsel, and what evidence the special counsel had gathered....

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rosser,

I supposed the Mueller team response was a denial of the critical assertions in the BF report. Obviously I was wrong, having missed the nuances and being foolishly misled by the Washington Post and New York Times reports on the matter. I need to read more carefully and critically.

Thank you for correcting me.

Anonymous said...

“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

Anonymous said...

Gabriel Sherman‏ @gabrielsherman

1/ This is in the journalism weeds but it’s totally insane that Buzzfeed didn’t tell Mueller’s office explicitly Buzzfeed was about to report that Mueller had uncovered Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow

6:19 PM - 19 Jan 2019

2/ The news value and impact of Buzzfeed’s story was that they reported Mueller had found out Trump had directed Cohen to lie. How could they not ask Mueller that directly??? said...

According to today's WaPo, BF did ask and as usual the office did not reply, but also did not know the full details of the story. They only learned the extent of the claims when the story came out. Then they went and checked their documents and records and fuund nothing. So, according to them the specific claims about Cohen testifying or confirming the report an the confirming documents and so on are false. But the dealy was due to them having to chek all that out.

Personally I suspect that DJT did make it clear to Cohen what to do. But whatever evidence there is of thie and wherever is not with Mueller's group.

Sandwichman said...

Then there is "duty to act."

1. Trump KNEW that his lawyer gave false testimony to Congress.
2. Trump swore and oath to faithfully execute the office of president and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
3. Trump declined to act to inform Congress about the falsity of Cohen's (& Jr.'s) testimony.

Under the legal principle of duty to act, an omission can constitute CRIMINAL LIABILITY in circumstances where a person has some official responsibility to act.

There is no question about the evidence: Cohen lied to Congress, Trump swore and oath, Trump KNEW that Cohen lied, Trump did nothing. said...

On this story there are several possibilities, and we should note that BF and its reporters are standing by their story, even claiming they have more evidence and witnesses to support it, although it is unclear if this every detail of it or just the big picture parts.

So one possibility is that the evidence is in the hands of the southern District Court of New York. Needless to say, that is not what the report claims, which is that it is in the hands of the Special Counsel's Office.

Another is that Cohen did say what he is reported to have said in front of some people at the SC's office, including presumably the "law enforcement officers" claimed to be the main sources for the story, but did so not under oath, with the SC's office only recognizing officialy testimony under oath.

Another regards the supposed documents, emails, and so on. These may exist, but they may be more equivocal than reported in the BF story, possibly not strong enough to support legal action, even if probably convincing to most people who would see them.

There is also the possibility that the situation is one or both of the above two possibilities, but that all that involves again the Southern District Court of New York.

Another is that the sources lied, either because they are anti-Trump or because they are pro-Trump obstructionists attempting to sabotage the investigation by getting false stories out about it.

Finally, although there may be other explanations, the reporter(s) at BF lied. There certainly have been cases of such fraud by reporters in the past. I hope this is not the case, but as of now we do not know which of the above or whatever other explanations there might be, is really the case. I am beyond my youthful pomo stage, so believe that there is a truth somewhere in all this, even if we have a hard time figuring it out and people end up disagreeing on what it is due to all kinds of muddling by various parties involved.

Sandwichman said...

Good summary, Barkley. I would again like to recommend emptywheel's coverage of these matters.