McClatchy is reporting, based on anonymous sources, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has gathered evidence showing that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in 2016, something Cohen himself has repeatedly denied:
The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election…
Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story…
Investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders. The disclosure still left a puzzle: The sources did not say whether Cohen took a commercial flight or private jet to Europe, and gave no explanation as to why no record of such a trip has surfaced.
From the time that Buzzfeed first published the unconfirmed dossier last year, Cohen has pointed to the claim that he visited Prague as proof the document is fake news:
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) January 11, 2017
Last August the NY Times reported that Cohen had written a letter to members of Congress which was described as a point-by-point rebuttal of some of the claims made in the Steele dossier. One of those points was the claim that he had visited Prague:
In the letter to Congress, Mr. Cohen denied the document’s claims, including one allegation that he had secret meetings in Prague with a Russian official last summer.
The letter says that Mr. Cohen has never been to Prague and that his passport shows no visits to the country. Mr. Cohen also denied being part of an effort to cover up what the dossier called Mr. Trump’s relationship with Russia.
Obviously, if Cohen did enter Prague and then lie about it, that’s inherently suspicious. Cohen himself pointed to this as proof the dossier was false so, if the McClatchy report is accurate, then it would only be fair to say this is proof the dossier, or at least one part of it, was accurate. Here’s what the Steele dossier said about the meeting in Prague:
Speaking to a compatriot and friend on 19 October 2016, a Kremlin insider provided further details of reported clandestine meeting/s between Republican presidential candidate, Donald lawyer Michael COHEN and Kremlin representatives in August 2016. Although the communication between them had to be cryptic for security reasons, the Kremlin insider clearly indicated to his/ her friend that the reported contact/s took place in Prague, Czech Republic.
Continuing on this theme, the Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of the Russian parastatal organisation, Rossotrudnichestvo, in this contact between TRUMP campaign
representative/ s and Kremlin offcials. Rossotrudnichestvo was being used as cover for this relationship and its office in Prague may well have been used to host the COHEN Russian
Presidential Administration (PA) meeting/ s. It was considered a “plausibly deniable” vehicle for this, whilst remaining entirely under Kremlin control.
The Kremlin insider went on to identify leading pro-PUTIN Duma figure, Konstantin KOSACHEV (Head of the Foreign Relations Committee) as an important figure in the TRUMP
campaign-Kremlin liaison operation. KOSACHEV, also “plausibly deniable” being part of the Russian legislature rather than executive, had facilitated the contact in Prague and by
implication, may have attended the meeting/ s with COHEN there in August.
The story doesn’t say if Mueller has any proof that Konstantin Kosachev was also in Prague at the time or if the two actually met as the dossier claims. Mueller’s office declined to comment for the story. But if nothing else, this account (again, if true) undercuts Cohen’s personal credibility. Cohen and his attorney also didn’t respond to McClatchy’s requests for comment so we’ll have to wait and see what they have to say about all of this.
Update: I’d forgotten all about this but it seems worth mentioning. One of the reasons Cohen’s denial had the ring of truth is that there was someone else with the same name and birth year who traveled to Prague but it was not the Michael Cohen who is the President’s lawyer. So it seemed at the time maybe Steele (or his sources) had made a mistake.
Government source confirms different Michael Cohen was in Prague https://t.co/B4cwmL1Ek3
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 11, 2017
If the McClatchy story is correct then Mueller has verified it’s the actual Michael Cohen who was in Prague, not someone with the same name. Again, we’ll have to see what Cohen says about all of this.