Editor's Brief

What Does Mueller’s Statement Mean?

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January 18, 2019 8:58 pm

The Special Counsel’s Office has just released an almost unprecedented statement disputing at least parts of the Buzzfeed story that has roiled the national political discussion for the last twenty four hours. The statement is as follows: “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.”

The first thing to note here is that I don’t think the Mueller office has ever issued a statement like this. They hardly ever say anything at all beyond terse and procedural statements about court cases. I cannot recollect any other time when they’ve publicly disputed a story. If it’s happened once or twice, it’s extremely rare.

The other point to note is that this is not a blanket refutation of the story. The statement is carefully worded and disputes “description[s] of specific statements” and the “characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office.” It’s possible to interpret this as disputing specific subsidiary points in the story, while leaving the central claims intact. But that seems like a stretch.

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