Beyond the Pee Tape, What the Steele Dossier Got Right

Last October, I summarized what the Steele dossier got right according to publicly available information at the time. But over the last few days, there have been some significant additions to the list. Most importantly was the news from McClatchy last Friday.

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.

At this point, no other news sources have confirmed this report, but McClatchy has a stellar record and isn’t likely to go with a story unless they were pretty confident of their sources.

If Mueller actually has evidence as described by McClatchy, it is yet another confirmation of what was reported by Christopher Steele. The next step would be to confirm the purpose of the trip. That is the truly explosive part of the dossier. To summarize, it reported that initially Paul Manafort was the Trump campaign’s chief contact with the Russians, but when he was fired, Michael Cohen took over. Here is how the dossier described the purpose of the Prague meeting:

In other words, one of the main topics of the meeting in Prague was to discuss how to handle payments to the hackers who had “worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.” About those payments, it was reported that they “had been paid by both Trump’s team and the Kremlin.” If that turns out to be true, it is game, set and match for a criminal conspiracy.

Given that the hackers were a primary focus of this meeting, this tweet from the foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden is significant.

We know a couple of things about Nikulin (hat tip to Lawrence Lewis for connecting these dots). First of all:

An alleged computer hacker being held in the Czech Republic is at the centre of an international legal tussle between the United States and Russia amid lingering disquiet over Moscow’s alleged interference in the recent US presidential election.

Yevgeniy Nikulin, 29, faces extradition requests from both countries after being detained by Czech police on an Interpol arrest warrant issued by US authorities.

Secondly, a little more than two weeks ago Reuters reported that Nikulin, who had been extradited to the U.S., entered a not guilty plea in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Once again we are faced with a series of data points that might or might not be a coincidence. Nikulin, a Russian hacker, was in Prague at the time of the alleged meeting between Cohen and the Russians in which payment to hackers was the primary agenda. Then the McClatchy story breaks a couple of weeks after Nikulin makes his first U.S. court appearance. Coincidence? You tell me.

One more note on the possible confirmation of the Steele dossier. It has been widely reported that Trump and his aides are more worried about the investigation into Michael Cohen than they are about the Russia probe. I will once again remind you of what Adam Davidson wrote about Cohen’s roll with the Trump organization.

Michael Cohen is the most important non-Trump in the Trump business world. He oversaw nearly all the foreign deals as the Trump Org shifted its focus to sketchy third-tier overseas oligarchs…We know, of course, that the Trump Org did business with corrupt politicians, sanctions-violators, money launderers, etc. The only open question is how much they knew about their partners’ activity. Cohen knows how much they knew. He knows what he told them.

The concern about the Cohen investigation lines up pretty well with what the Steele dossier reported.

Keep in mind that the main focus of the Republican attempts to distract us from the Russian investigation has been to claim that the Steele dossier was a politically driven collection of “fake news.” But the more we learn about both the Trump campaign and organization, the more it is being corroborated. All of this is much more significant than whether or not there is actually a so-called “pee tape.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.