In mid-January, a BuzzFeed News report hit the news cycle like a mile-wide asteroid landing on Earth.
Its assertion was stunning: that President Trump had directed his fixer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress in 2017 about negotiations the previous year to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. And that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III possessed documentation of this; and further, that Cohen had acknowledged those instructions in interviews with Mueller’s office.
Suddenly, the word “suborning” was wildly trending because to induce someone to lie under oath is to suborn perjury — which happens to be a felony.
But then the explosive story seemed to fall apart. Other news organizations were unable to match it; they could not report their own versions of it with their own sources.
And then, stunningly, Mueller’s office issued a brief, devastating statement disputing aspects of the BuzzFeed report.
From glory to goat: The story once praised to the skies as brilliant, game-changing reporting was disparaged everywhere as altogether wrong. The Washington Post wrote an especially tough piece, positing Mueller’s statement as a takedown of the story generally, not merely a parsing of details.
Predictably, Trump jumped in, calling the story “a disgrace to journalism.” Even “Saturday Night Live” took aim, with Weekend Update co-anchor Colin Jost quipping, “The details were so sketchy that even Mueller’s team had to be like, ‘Okay, fake news.’ ”
But then, on Wednesday, along came Cohen himself in his long-delayed congressional testimony, an all-day television spectacle.
And if you believe him, you might be inclined to think that BuzzFeed mostly got it right. [Continue reading…]