A few hours before President Trump wagged the dog last night with airstrikes in Syria, McClatchy reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence that the president’s “personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign.”
Cohen, of course, has vehemently denied ever being in Prague, an allegation that was first made in the famous dossier produced by former British spy Christopher Steele for Fusion GPS, and published by BuzzFeed. The dossier reported that Cohen met in Prague with a powerful Kremlin figure and discussed meddling in the U.S. election.
I’ve long been a skeptic about RussiaGate but if it turns out Cohen actually went to Prague honesty would require reevaluating that. At minimum, confirmation of the trip — no matter what the reason for it, and McClatchy’s account didn’t offer an explanation — would demonstrate that Cohen is covering up something significant that would be embarrassing to him and Trump.
From the beginning I doubted Cohen went to Prague because it seemed insane to deny the trip if he’d actually gone, and especially to sue BuzzFeed for publishing the dossier. He even gave BuzzFeed his passport, which seemed to demonstrate that he had not been to Prague during the time period in question, and he denied having a second passport.
I also thought Cohen must be telling the truth about Prague because I would have assumed that if he went there on a secret mission, he (and whoever he met with) would have cooked up a cover story in advance. There’s always a risk that such a meeting would become public and being stuck with having to deny it is a terrible backup plan.
Today Cohen again denied ever going to Prague. “Bad reporting, bad information and bad story,” he tweeted. “No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague. I was in LA with my son. Proven!”
Is the story true? There’s no way to know yet, especially as it’s based on unnamed sources. But McClatchy is generally very good and it really went out on a limb with this story.
If accurate, Cohen — and Trump — are screwed. If false, the media’s credibility on RussiaGate will be utterly shredded as McClatchy’s story has been widely picked up and essentially reported as true by numerous outlets.