First Lady Melania Trump arrived at the family’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida on Thursday, the same day BuzzFeed published an article contending authorities have proof President Donald Trump directed a subordinate to lie to Congress — an obstruction of justice and an impeachable offense, if true.
According to BuzzFeed reporters Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, Trump allegedly told his then-attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen later pleaded guilty to lying and other offenses and will be sentenced next month.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, has said in court documents Cohen’s lie was an effort to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — understood to be the moniker for Trump, according to BuzzFeed.
Trump’s relationship with Russia has been a central controversy dating back to his campaign and he and other administration officials initially fiercely denied any contact or business dealings, which later investigation proved to be untrue.
The president continues to deny any conspiracy with Russia, which the U.S. intelligence community has said intervened in the 2016 presidential election to boost his chances of winning.
The BuzzFeed report — which has not yet been widely corroborated by other outlets and which was dismissed by the president’s attorney — cites “two federal law enforcement officials involved in [the] investigation” and later notes an even lengthier array of sources, apparently confirmed by the officials.
“The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents,” BuzzFeed reported. “Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.”
In response, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Ballhaus he had not yet read it, but then, in a dig at Cohen’s credibility wrote, “If you believe Cohen I can get you a good all cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE and, according to BuzzFeed, did not respond to their questions before their article was published.
Appearing on Fox Friday morning, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley reportedly said he wouldn’t “give any credence or credibility to Michael Cohen” and that “here is nothing in that piece that can be corroborated.”
“This is absolutely ludicrous that we are giving any kind of credence or credibility to a news outlet like BuzzFeed,” Gidley said.
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Appearing on CNN, Cormier, one of the BuzzFeed reporters, was adamant in the veracity of what he learned. “I am rock solid. My sourcing on this goes beyond the two [officials] that are on the record,” he said.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes was quick to note that the obstruction described by BuzzFeed is identical, in broad strokes, to the first article of impeachment brought against President Richard Nixon in the ’70s before he resigned in disgrace so as to avoid a full House vote and trial in the Senate.
Democratic lawmakers, too, voiced concern about the BuzzFeed article and vowed to investigate.
“The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date,” Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”
BuzzFeed first published its article shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday.
The first lady arrived that same night at the Trumps’ Mar-a-Lago Club, sources confirm to PEOPLE.
The president has remained in Washington, D.C., almost exclusively since the Dec. 22 start of a historic government shutdown precipitated by his demands for a southern border wall.
He has exhorted Congressional Democrats to negotiate with him but they have dismissed his call to build a wall as immoral and ineffective.
Earlier this week Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi all but canceled the State of the Union address on Jan. 29, suggesting the president reschedule given the shutdown or deliver his speech only in writing.
According to CNN’s Kate Bennett, Melania is required to travel via government plane to ensure her security.
While the first lady previously canceled her Christmas trip to Mar-a-Lago to be with the president at the White House, she returned south for the club’s annual New Year’s Eve party where she was joined by her son, Barron, and parents.
“She didn’t look happy or comfortable,” a source who saw her that day told PEOPLE.