Did The Steele Dossier Get The Cohen Trip To Prague RIGHT?

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Ever since it came out, right wingers and Trump TV have tried to poke holes on the Steele Dossier, claiming that it is full of untrue allegations.

First of all, Steele did not ever claim to have ironclad proof. The dossier sets out what Steele was told by his sources — and confirmed by other sources. Everybody acknowledges that it is only hearsay. In fact, that is a perfect explanation of why Steele’s “oppo research” was never used by the Clinton team during the campaign.

Aaaaaanyway, one of the allegation in the Steele Dossier related to Michael Cohen making a trip to Prague. To summarize, it reported that initially Paul Manafort was the Trump campaign’s chief contact by the Russians, but when he was fired, Michael Cohen took over. Here is how the dossier described the purpose of the Prague meeting:

In other words, one of the main topics of the meeting in Prague was to discuss how to handle payments to the hackers who had “worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.” About those payments, it was reported that they “had been paid by both Trump’s team and the Kremlin.” If that turns out to be true, it is game, set and match for a criminal conspiracy.

Given that the hackers were a primary focus of this meeting, this tweet from the foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden is significant.

When the contents of the dossier were first published by Buzzfeed in January 2017, then-president-elect Trump dismissed the entire document as “false and fake.” Cohen denied that he had ever been to Prague, and used his denial of that specific claim as evidence that the whole dossier is fake news.

… and since he seemed willing to show his passport, everyone took him at his word. Including me.

But a bombshell McClatchy report Friday says that Mueller has evidence of the Cohen trip to Prague, one that would not require a passport:

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.

It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.

But 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.

If this turns out to be true, the dominoes will fall very fast.