I have previously set forth the case that Michael Cohen is about to turn on Trump. Of course any time a “fixer” or personal attorney “flips” his clients should all be worried. However in Trump’s case he should be particularly worried.
There is one specific statement that Michael Cohen made that appears to be particularly dangerous for Cohen, and therefore Trump. Cohen claims that he never visited Prague. The future of Donald Trump’s presidency could hinge on the answer to that question.
That’s because the claim that such a meeting happened is one of the most specific claims in Christopher Steele’s dossier alleging collusion between the Trump team and Russia to influence the 2016 election. From the first day that the dossier was released, Cohen has adamantly denied taking any such trip.
Yet a new report from McClatchy’s Peter Stone and Greg Gordon claims that special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Cohen DID visit Prague. According to that report, Cohen visited Prague by entering the country through Germany at the height of the 2016 campaign.
The McClatchy report is based on anonymous sources, so its relability is unclear. It could still prove to be mistaken. Cohen himself reiterated his denial again Saturday morning, telling CNN, “No, I have never been to Prague,” and sending this tweet rebutting the story:
If the McClatchy report proves to be accurate, it would utterly devastate one of the Trump team’s leading arguments that there was no Trump-Russia collusion. That’s because there is no reason for Cohen to try to debunk the Steele dossier by lying and saying that he didn’t visit Prague at all if he actually did, unless he was trying to cover up extremely serious wrongdoing.
Yet the story gets even weirder. Cohen has insisted since January 2017 that he’s never been to Prague, but Mother Jones’s David Corn writes that, a few months before that, Cohen told him he in fact was in Prague “for one afternoon 14 years ago.” So at the very least Cohen has been inconsistent on whether he’s ever been to the city.
The Steele dossier as publicly released, is a series of 17 reports written over six months, based on a plethora of sources, that allege deep and corrupt ties between Trump and Russian officials.
Cohen emerges as a major character in the final set of reports. In one dated October 19, 2016, Steele wrote:
Speaking in confidence to a longstanding compatriot friend in mid-October 2016, a Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of Republican presidential candidate Donald TRUMP’s lawyer, Michael COHEN, in the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership. COHEN’s role had grown following the departure of Paul MANNAFORT [sic] as TRUMP’s campaign manager in August 2016. Prior to that MANNAFORT had led for the Trump side.
According to the Kremlin insider, COHEN now was heavily engaged in a cover up and damage limitation operation in the attempt to prevent the full details of TRUMP’s relationship with Russia being exposed. In pursuit of this aim, COHEN had met secretly with several Russian Presidential Administration (PA) Legal Department officials in an EU country in August 2016. The immediate issues had been to contain further scandals involving MANNAFORT’s commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine and to limit the damage arising from exposure of former TRUMP foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE’s secret meetings with Russian leadership figures in Moscow the previous month. The overall objective had been “to sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connections could be fully established or proven.”
Then in a report dated the next day, October 20, Steele gave more specifics. He said Cohen’s “clandestine meeting” with Russian officials was in Prague, and mentioned a Russian NGO, Rossotrudnichestvo, as a potential host for the meeting.
Given the specificity of this report, and the recent report that Cohen did visit Prague, it appears there is reason for Trump to be very concerned. If Cohen did visit Prague, it seems likely that his denial was an attempt to cover-up something sinister. It seems equally likely that Cohen would have reason to admit to his wrongdoing,on behalf of Trump, if he gained personal advantage from testifying against Trump.