Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has abruptly dropped a defamation lawsuit he filed against BuzzFeed for publishing an unverified intelligence dossier put together by former British spy Christopher Steele that details the Trump campaign’s alleged links with the Putin regime.
The timing of Cohen’s move to drop the lawsuit is interesting, for at least a couple reasons. First, it comes the week after FBI agents acting on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room. Cohen’s decision to drop the lawsuit suggests agents may have seized evidence that will make it hard to him to maintain that the dossier is “fake” and a “lie filled document,” as he claimed on Twitter when he announced the “defamation action” in January.
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) January 10, 2018
Second, Cohen’s move to drop the lawsuit comes less than a week after McClatchy reported that Mueller possesses evidence that Cohen “secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign” — a claim that, if true, would verify an explosive claim in the dossier about Cohen traveling to Europe to meet with Russian officials and Eastern European hackers shortly after Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign.
“[T]he agenda comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the CLINTON campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow’s secret liaison with the TRUMP team more generally,” the dossier says.
Cohen responded to the McClatchy report by tweeting it is “proven” that he “was in LA with my son” during late August and early September 2016, and that he has “never been to Prague.” But Cohen he has yet to provide any evidence, and his claim that he’s “never been to Prague” directly contradicts previous public statements he’s made.
Trump’s allies in Congress have also used the dossier to try and discredit the entire Russia investigation. The so-called “Nunes memo” released by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee alleges the FBI inappropriately relied on the dossier to obtain a FISA warrant to surveil Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
And yet since Buzzfeed first published the dossier in January 2017, more and more parts of it have been corroborated. It claims that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page met with Russian officials in the months before the 2016 election — Carter himself confirmed the truth of that claim during congressional testimony. It claims former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was secretly working for Russian interests — we now know that is true as well. More broadly, the dossier details a Russian effort to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton — an effort that we’ve since learned campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and Donald Trump Jr. were aware of, and yet they never contacted the FBI.