This story right now is a little under the radar, but McClatchy has the scoop:
A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.
During the same period of late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague, two people familiar with the incident said.
The phone and surveillance data, which have not previously been disclosed, lend new credence to a key part of a former British spy’s dossier of Kremlin intelligence describing purported coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling operation.
The dossier, which Trump has dismissed as “a pile of garbage,” said Cohen and one or more Kremlin officials huddled in or around the Czech capital to plot ways to limit discovery of the close “liaison” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The new information regarding the recovery of Cohen’s cell phone location doesn’t explain why he was apparently there or who he was meeting with, if anyone. But it adds to evidence that Cohen was in or near Prague around the time of the supposed meeting.
Both of the newly surfaced foreign electronic intelligence intercepts were shared with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, people familiar with the matter said. Mueller is investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference and whether Trump’s campaign colluded in the scheme. Mueller also is examining whether Trump has obstructed the sweeping inquiry.
McClatchy reported in April 2018 that Mueller had obtained evidence Cohen traveled to Prague from Germany in late August or early September of 2016, but it could not be learned how that information was gleaned.
Cohen tweeted a denial hours after this story was published.
Four people spoke with McClatchy on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of information shared by their foreign intelligence connections. Each obtained their information independently from foreign intelligence connections.
What was Cohen doing in Prague (if these intercepts are accurate)? Nobody really knows for sure, but it probably isn’t good for Trump:
Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks said that if disclosures of the foreign intelligence intercepts are true, “This is a very significant break, because it looks like a direct link between Donald Trump’s personal fixer and Russians most likely involved in the disruption of our election.”
“It would prove that lying was going on, not only about being in Prague, but much beyond the Prague episode,” she said.
Steele’s dossier, a compilation of intelligence from his network of Kremlin sources, is full of uncorroborated details about the purported meeting.
It said Konstantin Kosachev, a longtime member of the Russian Senate and chairman of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, “facilitated” the gathering.
Steele reported that Kosachev may well have represented the Russians in Prague, where he had extensive ties. But Mike Carpenter, a former Russia specialist at the Pentagon under President Barack Obama, said that seems unlikely – about “as discreet as sending (Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo to meet with an informant on a sensitive issue.”
Kosachev has publicly denied traveling to Prague in 2016.
Among the goals of the meeting, the dossier said, was to limit negative news reports about the Russia-friendly relationships of two Trump campaign aides— foreign policy adviser Carter Page and just-ousted campaign Chairman Paul Manafort — and to ensure that European hackers were paid and told to “lie low.”
While the foreign intelligence about Cohen does not confirm a meeting even occurred, it provides evidence that he traveled to the Czech Republic, where the sources said his phone was momentarily activated to download emails or other data.
Of course, NOW Cohen is cooperating. So if the foreign intelligence intercepts are accurate, the big questions now are whether Cohen has acknowledged to investigators that a meeting in Prague occurred, informed them what transpired and revealed what, if anything, he told Trump about it.
Outwardly, Cohen has denied the McClatchy report. Other news outlets have been unable to corroborate it.
In an interview on MSNBC, Greg Gordon, who broke the story, said that he and his McClatchy colleague, Peter Stone, did not physically see cell tower records and intelligence intercepts that they claim placed Cohen in Prague in summer 2016. And….
Gordon also suggested that the four anonymous sources he and Stone cite in their article also did not see the intelligence for themselves, meaning that the report is based on third-hand information.
“Is there anything that you were able to physically see for yourselves?” MSNBC host Joy Reid asked Gordon.
“I wish we had. We held out for a while for that, and it came a time when we thought we had a critical mass. It is a competitive business,” Gordon said.
“Some of the sources have government sources, and some of the sources are people who have told us that they have trusted intelligence-type sources that they get information from. We don’t know the specifics, but we have used these sources on many subjects, and they have been very accurate,” Gordon added.
When asked if he has seen the intercepts, Gordon responded, “No.”
He said that his sources were told that the intercepts exist.
So take that into consideration.