U.S. President Donald Trump expressed appreciation to Special Counsel Robert Mueller Saturday for disputing the accuracy of a news report that said he directed his attorney to lie to Congress.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump's recognition of Mueller came as a surprise to some, as Trump has frequently dismissed the Mueller-led Special Counsel investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election as "a witch hunt."
"I appreciate the Special Counsel coming out with a statement last night," Trump said. "I think it was very appropriate that [he] did so. I very much appreciate that."
Trump's remarks came two days after BuzzFeed News cited two anonymous federal law enforcement officials in its report as saying that Trump ordered his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said Friday, "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 comments are a rare statement by the special counsel office disputing a news report.
Shortly after Mueller's office spoke out, Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, said in a statement that he stood by their reporting and urged "the Special Counsel to make clear what he's disputing."
The BuzzFeed report prompted two House Democratic committee heads to say they will investigate the matter.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Friday the allegation is "among the most serious to date." He added, "We will do what's necessary to find out'' if the report is true.
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerrold Nadler said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress would be a federal crime and said his committee's job "is to get to the bottom of it."
Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas posted on Twitter that if the BuzzFeed story is true, Trump "must resign or be impeached."
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in a statement Friday that "any suggestion -- from any source -- that the President counseled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false.'' White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the story is ridiculous.
BuzzFeed reported that Cohen told special counsel Mueller that the president told him to lie to Congress about Trump's dealings with Russia.
The news site said its anonymous sources are also "involved in an investigation of the matter."
BuzzFeed said investigators learned about Trump's effort to get 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."
Trump tweeted Friday that Cohen is "Lying to reduce his jail time!''
Cohen pleaded guilty in to lying to Congress about the Trump Tower project in Moscow. He has been sentenced to three years in prison for crimes that include paying hush money to women who alleged they had affairs with Trump.
Cohen is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in February, when he will likely be questioned about the report.
Special counsel Mueller and his team of prosecutors have been investigating Trump campaign links to Russia as well as looking into whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.
Trump has repeatedly denied collusion with Russia and has called Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt." Russia also has rejected U.S. intelligence findings that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election in an effort to give Trump's campaign a boost.