A new story in BuzzFeed News says President Trump directed his former lawyer to lie to Congress. Anthony Cormier, one of the BuzzFeed News reporters who broke the story, talks to Steve Inskeep.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has admitted lying to Congress. He says he lied about President Trump's business dealings with Russia, that discussions of a Trump Tower Moscow continued deep into the presidential campaign. According to BuzzFeed, Cohen says he was told to lie under oath by President Trump, which congressional Democrats are saying is suborning perjury, a crime. Anthony Cormier is one of two BuzzFeed reporters who broke this story. He's on the line. Good morning, sir.
ANTHONY CORMIER: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What is the evidence that Michael Cohen is telling this to federal investigators?
CORMIER: So according to our sources, who are two - I'll characterize them as law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the Trump Tower Moscow investigation - have told us that there is quite a bit of documentary evidence of this, whether those are emails, internal correspondence and witness interviews that they gathered before they spoke with Mr. Cohen at the special counsel. And then Mr. Cohen, during his many interviews with the special counsel, confirmed that he was directed to lie to Congress.
INSKEEP: OK. So you're saying it's not just that Michael Cohen says to federal prosecutors, listen, I lied, but the president told me to lie. There is some kind of documentary record that would appear to corroborate that?
CORMIER: Yes. That is absolutely correct.
INSKEEP: Have you seen any of those documents?
CORMIER: I have not. But our two sources fully, 100 percent read into this. They have reviewed these documents in person. They know the sort of minutia of this aspect of the sort of sprawling special counsel investigation. And we've managed to find ways to verify these people's stories off the record through sourcing that we just weren't able to use in the story.
INSKEEP: So I think you're trying to tell me that you feel you have more than two sources, even though you were citing two sources because others were not speaking in a form that you could report.
INSKEEP: Does this story seem plausible to you, having covered Michael Cohen's story for so long?
CORMIER: Well, I think there's a clue that the special counsel's office left in the sentencing memo of Mr. Cohen. When Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, the special counsel's office issued a memo saying that this is why - this is what we think he should be sentenced to. And among the areas that Mr. Cohen has apparently been helpful was in helping the special counsel understand how his statement to Congress, in which he lied, was crafted. It's in the sentencing memo that has been largely overlooked. We, of course, would never rely - our reporting would never be founded in sort of speculation. But it was an interesting breadcrumb, so to speak, for us.
INSKEEP: So we know on the record from Robert Mueller's office that Michael Cohen told them something about how it was that he came to lie before Congress and that he was helpful in some way. And if I'm not mistaken, the memo also alludes to conversations with the White House in that part of the memo, right?
CORMIER: Indeed. It absolutely does.
INSKEEP: So what you've done is taken it a step further, according to your sources. And the assertion here is that it was the - was it the president himself, directly, who would have spoken to Michael Cohen, or was it through some intermediary, according to your reporting?
CORMIER: No. It's our understanding that this was directly from the president of the United States.
INSKEEP: So what is the implication of this?
CORMIER: This is problematic for the president. This is a crime, if it's true. And our reporting suggests that it is. We've heard nothing from the White House. We've gotten a little bit of backlash from Trump's spokesperson Rudy Giuliani, who suggested that - I believe, last night - if you believe Michael Cohen, that he wants to sell us the Brooklyn Bridge for all cash, I think where Mr. Giuliani is mistaken is that our reporting is not based on Mr. Cohen. He is not the one that has told us this.
INSKEEP: Anthony Cormier of BuzzFeed, thanks very much. Really appreciate it.
CORMIER: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.