Kennedy says "First Amendment was bruised" by BuzzFeed report on Cohen

Kennedy: BuzzFeed report "bruised" First Amendment

Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana slammed an explosive BuzzFeed News report about alleged evidence President Trump directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, calling the story "embarrassing." 

"What happened with respect to the BuzzFeed article — it was embarrassing. I think the First Amendment was bruised. Look, reporters make mistakes. We all do," Kennedy said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. 

"What surprised me was not that somebody made a mistake, intentional or not, but it ... was astonishing to me that so many folks didn't stop and say, 'Hey, you know, let's think about this. Could this be true? Who are the sources? Had these particular reporters had problems before?'" Kennedy added. "It was almost as if it was some of the reporting was not reporting. It was wishful thinking, and I think that hurts the First Amendment." 

Late Thursday, BuzzFeed News published the story reporting the special counsel Robert Mueller's office had evidence Mr. Trump instructed Cohen to lie to congressional investigators about his role in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The bombshell report raised the possibility the president could be implicated in a federal crime and prompted Democrats to call for investigations and, in some cases, impeachment proceedings if the report was accurate. "If the Buzzfeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached," Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas wrote on Twitter

But in a rare public statement, Mueller's office disputed BuzzFeed News' reporting. "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," Peter Carr, the special counsel's spokesman, wrote in a statement nearly 24 hours after the story was published. BuzzFeed News has said it stands by its reporting.

The president and his supporters have seized on Mueller's statement to bash the press for alleged bias and unfair coverage. "Many people are saying that the Mainstream Media will have a very hard time restoring credibility because of the way they have treated me over the past 3 years (including the election lead-up), as highlighted by the disgraceful BuzzFeed story & the even more disgraceful coverage!" Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday.

The day before, Mr. Trump proclaimed, "Fake News is truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!"

Kennedy said he hopes William Barr, the president's nominee for attorney general, will release Mueller's final report if he is confirmed to lead the Justice Department. And if there's a regulation that prevents Barr from doing so, Kennedy said the attorney general nominee should consider waiving it.

"I think they ought to release Mueller's report for a couple of reasons. Number one, it's going to leak anyway. Washington D.C. leaks like the Titanic. And number two, I think the American people have a right to know," he said. During confirmation hearings last week, Barr declined to commit to releasing any eventual report in full.

Asked about Mr. Trump's immigration offer to Democrats to try to end the longest government shutdown in U.S history, Kennedy said the White House's proposal is not perfect, but "represents progress." He added that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's opposition to the offer was "predictable" but said more centrist Democrats are "glad the president put something on the table."

Any measure to reopen the government that does not include funding for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border will surely be rejected by the White House, Kennedy added. 

"I talked to the president about this issue for about an hour last week," he said. "And if you bring a plan to him that doesn't include a wall, it's dead as four o'clock."