The talking point that the Steele dossier is “salacious and unverified” may have taken another hit, if yesterday’s report from McClatchy is true. The truth is, one part of the dossier is “salacious and unverified” because, well, peeing prostitutes is by definition salacious and, as the alleged prostitutes were from Moscow, difficult to verify. However, quite a bit of the dossier has been verified and now we appear to have another box checked off.
From the article:
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.
It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.
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.
Why it Matters:
This would be a significant development in the Russia investigation and, if true, perhaps the first real public indication that members of the Trump Team did collude with Russia by way of Russian spies, hackers, and individuals close to Putin. Cohen has denied traveling to Prague in 2016 but if there is proof, and that proof is in Mueller’s hands, that denial would cast doubt on every other statement he has made about this issue. It could also put Donald Trump in greater legal jeopardy due to his close association with Cohen and the unlikelihood that he was unaware of Cohen’s trip to Prague.
And it brings up the question: Why would Cohen need to lie about traveling to Prague if there was nothing nefarious about the trip?
The simple truth is no one except Robert Mueller and his investigators know what evidence has been found and we are all going to have to wait until the investigation concludes to find out. Whatever the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s investigation, Americans should want the truth… whatever that truth may be. If there are people who conspired against the United States of America, they should be held accountable.
If that list doesn’t include Donald Trump, the country would be able to breathe a sigh of relief and thank Robert Mueller for a job well done. If that list does include the President, then we need to know exactly what happened and he should be held to account. The founders gifted us a system of governance that ensured that no man is above the law. And that includes the President of the United States.
For the sake of presenting both sides, here is a good thread from Benjamin Wittes that expresses skepticism about the reliability of this evidence.