Donald Trump and his enablers have settled on two overarching lies in an attempt to claim that the investigation of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election is nothing but a “witch hunt.”
The first lie is to claim that the entire investigation was launched because of the Steele dossier. That is immediately followed by an attempt to discredit both the author and his report. The second is that every time the special prosecutor documents a plea agreement with a Trump associate over a minor crime in exchange for their cooperation, we immediately hear that they provide no evidence of “collusion.”
Paul Sperry uses both of those arguments in an article titled, “Cohen’s ‘Appointment in Prague’ Was Dossier Bunk, Mueller Files Indicate.” As a reminder, the Steele dossier made two rather explosive claims about Michael Cohen. It states that he took over as the manager of the conspiracy on the Trump campaign side after Manafort was fired. As such, he attended a meeting in Prague with his Russian counterparts.
Based on “officials familiar with the case” (which could refer to just about anyone), Sperry claims that Mueller’s most recent documents related to Michael Cohen debunk the idea that he traveled to Prague.
Officials familiar with the case said the proof is in the lack of evidence in the 25 pages of court papers Mueller has filed on Cohen over the past two weeks. The alleged Prague visit is not evident in the plea agreement, the criminal information statement or the sentencing memorandum, none of which contain redactions.
Sperry goes on to point out that the documents report on Cohen’s contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, but don’t mention Prague. He also refers to the fact that Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to congress about Trump Tower Moscow, but wasn’t charged with lying in his testimony that he never traveled to Prague.
All of that is based on the second argument I referred to above. In other words, Sperry is suggesting that what Mueller has released so far is all he has on Cohen. Anyone who has been paying attention to the special prosecutor in these plea agreements knows that this is not the case.
One of the things we learned from the sentencing memo is that Cohen has already spent 70 hours being questioned by investigators. That’s a lot of time for the few bits of information that have been made public so far. If Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis is to be believed, then his client has already divulged a lot more than what we’ve heard so far.
Perry’s point in all of this is to promote the other lie about the Steele dossier being a partisan hit piece that launched the entire investigation.
Steele hasn’t worked in Moscow since the 1990s and didn’t travel there to gather intelligence on Cohen or Trump firsthand. He relied on third-hand “friend of friend” sourcing.
The Prague rumor was sourced to an anonymous “friend” of an unnamed “Kremlin insider.” If that claim of Russian origin is true, the Prague rumor stands as a highly successful piece of Russian disinformation channeled through the Clinton campaign…
“Cohen may be a convicted liar, but he’s not an agent of the Kremlin — that much is now clear from the court pleadings,” said a U.S official with direct knowledge of the case.
He noted that Mueller’s failure to substantiate the Prague rumor deals a “devastating blow” to the credibility of the dossier, which was used by the FBI to justify spying on at least one Trump campaign aide. “That was pretty much the heart of the whole thing,” he said.
Let’s be fact-based for just a moment. No matter how many times it is repeated by the president and his enablers, the Steele dossier is not the “heart of the whole thing” when it comes to the Trump-Russia investigation. Also, the idea that the trip to Prague was “Russian disinformation channeled through the Clinton campaign” is nothing but someone’s fantasy about what happened, because there is zero evidence to support the claim.
At this moment, in addition to what the Steele dossier reports, we know two things about Cohen’s alleged trip to Prague:
- Cohen denied that it happened in his testimony to congress, and
- Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, with McClatchy’s DC bureau, reported in April that Mueller had evidence that Cohen traveled to Prague.
In other words, Mueller has been silent on the question so far.
Of course, we also know that Mueller has a lot more information than what he has made public so far. Until the special counsel publicly affirms or disproves anything in the Steele dossier, assumptions about the veracity of its contents are nothing more than speculation to obscure the facts.