Outrage, excitement, and thorough confusion —a day after Buzzfeed the waters are perfectly muddy

The article published by Buzzfeed on Friday, contending that Michael Cohen lied to Congress on direct orders from Donald Trump, was a revelation so riveting that it seemed to penetrate even a Washington that had become inured to the endless chain of outrages emerging from the Trump White House. The reaction across the media and inside Congress was swift and strong. Both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee announced investigations into the matter, and Senator Jeff Merkley gave what might be the most succinct review of the day

Merkley: If this report of Trump suborning false testimony is confirmed, then Trump committed a felony and must resign or being impeached.

But through the day, that confirmation was slow to appear. On Friday afternoon, CNN published a comparison of the Buzzfeed information to information available from recent court filings from both the Southern District of New York and the Special Counsel’s office, and found that the claims in the Buzzfeed article seemed to align. But Buzzfeed claimed more than just interpretation of data already available. According to their article, they had been informed by two “law enforcement officials.”

And while the early response from Trump surrogates concentrated on attacking Cohen, the article didn’t place the weight of evidence on Cohen’s shoulders. Instead, it claimed that Cohen had only “confirmed” evidence already collected by the special counsel’s office in the form of “interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.” The apparent strength of this supposed evidence helped power trust in the story. And since much of the kickback from Trump’s end did not deny the underlying story, what appeared to be a series of non-denial denials only fueled greater acceptance.

But then on Friday evening, after a day of reporting, calls for action, and expanding reactions to the story, Peter Carr, spokesman from the special counsel office, made an unexpected announcement.

And everything — everything — flew into doubt.

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