"The innocuous exchange belied the chaos it would produce.
When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr's initial impression, people familiar with the matter said, in that the reporting alleged that Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and self-described fixer, "told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie," and that Mueller's office learned of the directive "through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents."
In the view of the special counsel's office, that was wrong, two people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
And with Democrats raising the specter of investigation and impeachment, Mueller's team started discussing a step they had never before taken: publicly disputing reporting on evidence in their ongoing investigation.
People familiar with the matter said Carr told others in the government that he would have more vigorously discouraged the reporters from proceeding with the story had he known it would allege Cohen had told the special counsel Trump directed him to lie -- or that the special counsel was said to have learned this through interviews with Trump Organization witnesses, as well as internal company emails and text messages.
After Carr declined to comment to BuzzFeed, but before the story was published, he sent reporter Jason Leopold a partial transcript of Cohen's plea hearing, in which Cohen admitted lying to Congress about the timing of discussions related to a possible Trump Tower project in Moscow, according to the emails BuzzFeed's spokesman provided.
Cohen had claimed falsely that the company's effort to build the tower ended in January 2016, when in fact discussions continued through June of that year, as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination for president.
"I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1's political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1," Cohen said at his plea hearing late last year, using the term "Individual 1" to refer to Trump.
Carr, people familiar with the matter said, hoped Leopold would notice that Cohen had not said during the hearing that Trump had explicitly directed him to lie.
But Leopold, who co-authored the story with reporter Anthony Cormier, told the spokesman he was not taking any signals, and Carr acknowledged the point.
"I am not reading into what you sent and have interpreted it as an FYI," Leopold wrote.
"Correct, just an FYI," Carr responded.
People familiar with the matter said the special counsel's office meant the statement to be a denial of the central theses of the BuzzFeed story -- particularly those that referenced what Cohen had told the special counsel, and what evidence the special counsel had gathered."
much more at the link, the GIST OF WHICH is that Cohen was following Trump's "directives"... but there is no quote or recording of what Trump said....
"The language Cohen and his representatives used in court had been ambiguous. Cohen had pleaded guilty in two cases -- one for lying to Congress about the Moscow project, and another involving campaign finance violations for hush-money payments to women who had alleged affairs with Trump.
While neither Cohen nor his representatives had ever said explicitly that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, Guy Petrillo, Cohen's attorney, wrote in a memo in advance of his sentencing, "We address the campaign finance and false statements allegations together because both arose from Michael's fierce loyalty to Client-1.
In each case, the conduct was intended to benefit Client-1, in accordance with Client-1's directives."