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WH Spokesman Refuses to Deny Trump Told Cohen To Lie

Newsweek logo Newsweek 1/18/2019 Tim Marcin

Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley in the White House briefing room on Dec. 18, 2018. © Andrew Harnik Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley in the White House briefing room on Dec. 18, 2018. Buzzfeed News dropped a bombshell article on Thursday evening that surfaced allegations that President Donald Trump instructed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie under oath — an action that, if true, would almost certainly amount to obstruction of justice. Come Friday a spokesman for the White House, Hogan Gidley, repeatedly refused to deny that Trump instructed Cohen to lie.

The report from Buzzfeed cites two unnamed federal law enforcement officials who said special counsel Robert Mueller had learned, via witnesses and documents, that Trump had instructed Cohen to lie and that Cohen — who cooperated with authorities and was sentenced to three years in prison for multiple crimes, including lying to Congress — confirmed that allegation. 

Gidley first questioned Buzzfeed's credibility by bringing up its publishing of a famous dossier on Trump's connections to Russia, which included explosive findings gathered by a former British spy.

Gidley said:

"This is absolutely ludicrous that we are giving any type of credence or credibility to a news outlet like BuzzFeed. They are responsible completely and totally for the release of a discredited, disproven, false dossier. And the author of the piece in question that you're taking about on air this morning and said he couldn’t corroborate any of his own evidence. He ran it anyway. This is quite frankly the problem with the press and why the president continues to call them fake news repeatedly. Because there is nothing in that piece that can be corroborated."

After Fox host Bill Hemmer pointed out that Buzzfeed did not see the evidence but said they relied on trusted sources who had access to it, Gidley again simply criticized the press and claimed that Trump was routinely barraged by false stories.

"You're saying the president did not tell Michael Cohen to do that?" Hemmer asked in response. 

“I’m telling you right now, this is exactly why the president refuses to give any credence or credibility to news outlets because they have no ability to corroborate anything they’re putting out there," Gidley said. "Instead they're just using innuendo, shady sources."

Pushing back, Hemmer responded: "That was not a denial of my question."

“No. But the premise is ridiculous,” Hogan replied. "We are also talking about a person in Michael Cohen, who quite frankly has been proven to be a liar. He self admits that he's a felon. So to give him any credibility it just doesn't warrant any response from the White House or this president."

When the Fox hosts again followed up by saying the headline was that Trump instructed Cohen to lie under oath and again gave Gidley the chance to deny he again refused. 

Asked if that allegation was true or false, Gidley responded: "Right. But the president's attorney has also addressed this. I'm not gonna give any credence or credibility to Michael Cohen, who's a convicted felon and an admitted liar. That's just ridiculous. I'm not gonna do that from the White House." 

At the time, Gidley appeared to be referencing a statement from Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who also did not initially deny the heart of the matter but rather attacked Cohen. "If you believe Cohen I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge," he told The Washington Post late Thursday.

Shortly after midday Friday, Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, came out with a more forceful statement — and the first outright denial.

"Any suggestion — from any source — that the President counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false," he said to the Los Angeles Times, adding, "Today's claims are just more made-up lies born of Michael Cohen’s malice and desperation, in an effort to reduce his sentence."

If the allegations in the Buzzfeed report are proven to be true, it could spell serious issues for the White House. Trump's own nominee for attorney general, William Barr, said under oath that a president instructing someone to commit perjury was obstruction of justice. 

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