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.
It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.
Assuming the “two sources familiar with the matter” are accurate, Cohen lied–blatantly and repeatedly–that he had never been to Prague. Even if Cohen took a private jet, eluding airport screening, he’d still have to clear customs. But there is an important caveat:
It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.
But then, why would Cohen go to Prague and then repeatedly lie about not going there? If Cohen did take that meeting, it makes it all the clearer why he has refused to cooperate with the Special Counsel. It also seems to me that this story is much more important than making secret payments to Playboy models and pornstars.
If it turns out to be true that Cohen did indeed meet with the likes of Kosachev, then it wouldn’t be difficult to infer that Putin and Trump, one-degree removed, collaborated and/or colluded in the 2016 election. This is all the more reason why the Mueller investigation should proceed to its conclusion, unimpeded, and also why Trump should just butt out and tweet about something else.