On Friday, McClatchy reported that special counsel Robert Mueller possesses evidence that Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, “secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign.”
If true, the report corroborates a key claim in former British spy Christopher Steele’s partially unverified dossier detailing the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians.
While the McClatchy report doesn’t detail what evidence Mueller has, it notes that “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.”
It’s unclear who Cohen met with or what he did in Prague, but his reported trip there came shortly after Paul Manafort abruptly resigned from his role as Trump campaign chairman amid news he had secretly received $12.7 million in secret payment from a pro-Putin Ukrainian political party.
According to the Steele dossier, Cohen traveled to Prague to meet with Russian officials and Eastern European hackers in late August or early September.
“[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.
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.
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) January 11, 2017
In recent months, Trump has repeatedly attacked the credibility of the dossier, and used his attacks on it to try and discredit the entire Russia investigation.
The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2018
Disproven and paid for by Democrats “Dossier used to spy on Trump Campaign. Did FBI use Intel tool to influence the Election?” @foxandfriends Did Dems or Clinton also pay Russians? Where are hidden and smashed DNC servers? Where are Crooked Hillary Emails? What a mess!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2018
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.
Not only would evidence that Cohen indeed traveled to Prague reveal he’s been lying, but it would discredit the argument Trump and his allies in Congress have been using to discredit the Russia investigation. It could also constitute smoking gun evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the presidential campaign.
The most salacious claim in the dossier is that Russia is in possession of a tape of Trump participating in lewd sex acts in a Moscow hotel. An excerpt of former FBI director James Comey’s new book released this week contradicts an alibi Trump has used to deny such a tape exists.
McClatchy’s report about Cohen’s trip to Prague comes at the end of an eventful week for Trump’s longtime personal attorney. On Monday, his home, office, and hotel room were raided by FBI agents. Trump and Cohen’s lawyers went to court Friday in an effort to block the Justice Department from reading seized documents.
On Friday evening, the New York Time reported that Trump and his advisers “have concluded that a wide-ranging corruption investigation into his personal lawyer poses a greater and more imminent threat to the president than even the special counsel’s investigation.”