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The White House goes on the defensive after explosive BuzzFeed report



Top members of President Donald Trump’s administration hit back at a bombshell BuzzFeed News report in multiple television appearances Sunday.

The report was published Friday and based on information from federal law enforcement officials, said Trump had directed his former personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the timing of negotiations over a potential Trump Tower in Moscow. The report prompted unprecedented responses from the administration in addition to special counsel Robert Mueller, who issued a public rebuke of the report, though his office didn’t specify which points he was questioning.

Trump’s top attorney Rudy Giuliani waved off the widespread response to what he called a “phony” report, which he described as “hysteria” among the media covering the investigations into the Trump administration.

“The reality is, yesterday BuzzFeed published a story that was scandalous. It was horrible. They should be sued, under investigation,” Giuliani said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “That’s because you have a hysteria going on in the media that interprets everything against Donald Trump.”

Host Jake Tapper replied, “There’s no hysteria here, sir.”

Vice President Mike Pence took a similar stance on “Fox News Sunday,” where he described the report as part of a “constant obsession” with covering the president.

“It was remarkable what we saw happening for 24 hours in the media on the basis of the report that appeared in BuzzFeed,” Pence said. “I just think it’s one of the reasons why people are so frustrated with many in the national media and the constant obsession on this.”

Pence also said the report highlighted sharp partisan tensions that caused Democrats to “accept the worst facts” about Trump.

“This was a week where I think the American people saw the hyper-partisanship among Democrats to assume the worst about this president,” Pence said. “And many in the national media’s willingness to assume the worst about the president.”

Read more: THE RUSSIA RUNDOWN: BuzzFeed’s bombshell, Barr’s confirmation, and Giuliani’s latest shift

Giuliani said in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he had doubts about the claims in the report because he believed Trump’s “counsel to Michael Cohen throughout that entire period was, ‘Tell the truth.'”

“We thought he was telling the truth. I still believe he may have been telling the truth when he testified before Congress,” Giuliani added.

Later on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Giuliani took aim at Cohen’s credibility, telling Tapper “Do not think that just because he’s pleaded guilty to something that Michael Cohen’s telling the truth.”

Cohen previously admitted lying to Congress about multiple aspects of the Moscow Trump Tower deal, including the timeline of discussions inside the Trump Organization and the extent of his relationships and communication with Russian government officials, and the involvement of multiple Trump family members in pushing the deal through.

Cohen’s plea indicated that Trump was not being truthful when he denied any financial interests in Russia during his 2016 campaign, according to reporting from Business Insider’s Sonam Sheth. Additional concerns were raised when it was reported the Trump Organization wanted to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the penthouse in the building.

If the report is true, it poses a grave legal threat to Trump, as it could implicate him in purposefully providing Congress with wrongful and misleading statements in addition to interference with an ongoing investigation probing the Moscow project and Trump’s Russian connections.

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