- McClatchy wire service is out with a new report that, if accurate, has major implications for the Steele dossier’s allegations about Trump campaign collusion.
- McClatchy reports that cellphone evidence places Michael Cohen near Prague during the 2016 campaign. The dossier alleges that Cohen visited Prague in order to pay off hackers.
- But the report is being met with some skepticism, largely because no other news outlets have confirmed the reporting. Cohen and his legal team have also vehemently denied the dossier’s claims, even after Cohen began cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
A new report by McClatchy is resurrecting controversial allegations that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, as was alleged in the infamous Steele dossier.
If accurate, the Thursday report would have significant implications for the special counsel’s probe, while supporting one of the most significant claims of collusion made in the dossier, which was authored by former British spy Christopher Steele and funded by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Four unidentified sources claim that Cohen’s personal cellphone sent signals to a tower near Prague in later summer 2016, at around the time that Steele alleges that the former Trump fixer was meeting with a group of Kremlin insiders, according to McClatchy.
McClatchy also reports that two sources said that an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up chatter at around the same time from a Russian who commented that Cohen was in Prague. (RELATED: Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty To Charge In Mueller Probe)
The report comes seven months after McClatchy reported that two unidentified sources claimed special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence placing Cohen in Prague during the campaign.
That April 13 report did not lay out the information that was allegedly provided to Mueller.
Both reports have been met with skepticism from some quarters, including outspoken critics of President Donald Trump. That’s because McClatchy’s reporting has not been corroborated by other news outlets. And numerous pieces of circumstantial evidence have cast doubt on the dossier’s allegations about Cohen, who began cooperating with Mueller’s investigation in August.
In his 35-page dossier, Steele alleges that Cohen visited Prague with three other associates to meet with a Kremlin delegation to discuss efforts to help Trump win the election. Steele also alleged that Cohen made arrangements to pay hackers who stole information from Democrats.
Cohen first denied the dossier’s allegations after BuzzFeed published the salacious document on Jan. 10, 2017. He maintained those denials publicly up until he began cooperating with federal prosecutors in New York.
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Dec. 12 in a case involving the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan as well as the special counsel’s office. He pleaded guilty on Aug. 21 in the New York case to tax evasion, bank fraud and making an illegal campaign contribution in the form of a payoff to Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006.
Cohen pleaded guilty on Nov. 29 in the special counsel’s investigation to lying to Congress about the extent of his efforts during the presidential campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Doubts had grown about the initial McClatchy report because of the staunch denials from Cohen’s legal team even while the former Trump lawyer has cooperated with Mueller’s team. The absence of criminal charges against Cohen regarding the alleged Prague trip have also generated skepticism about the dossier and McClatchy’s April 13 story.
Lanny Davis, a former attorney to Cohen and his current adviser, vehemently denied even after Cohen was sentenced in his legal cases that Cohen ever went to Prague. Davis most recently commented on the allegations on Dec. 17.
“No, no Prague, ever, never,” Davis told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt.
Davis offered a similar comment to McClatchy, saying that Cohen “has said one million times he was never in Prague.”
“One million and one times. He’s never been to Prague. … He’s never been to the Czech Republic,” he told McClatchy this week.
Cohen also denied the dossier’s allegations about him during testimony to the House and Senate in 2017. But his guilty plea in the Mueller case did not include any reference to false statements about the dossier. (RELATED: Michael Cohen Pleaded Guilty To Lying To Congress, But Not About The Steele Dossier)
Michael Isikoff, a reporter who met with Steele prior to the 2016 election, noted in an interview on Dec. 15 that Cohen did not plead guilty to charges related to Prague, the dossier or collusion.
Other prominent journalists have indicated that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials doubted the Cohen-Prague claim.
Washington Post reporter Greg Miller acknowledged in October that CIA and FBI sources have told the newspaper they did not believe that Cohen visited Prague.
“We’ve talked to sources at the FBI and the CIA and elsewhere — they don’t believe that ever happened,” Miller said.
After McClatchy’s April 13 report, a spokesman for Mueller’s office issued a rare statement cautioning against some reporting about the Russia probe.
“What I have been telling all reporters is that many stories about our investigation have been inaccurate. Be very cautious about any source that claims to have knowledge about our investigation and dig deep into what they claim before reporting on it,” the spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation at the time. “If another outlet reports something, don’t run with it unless you have your own sourcing to back it up.”
Cohen and Davis did not respond to TheDCNF’s requests for comment.
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