Leftist news outlets are buzzing with excitement over a report by McClatchy suggesting that Michael Cohen visited Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign. The infamous anti-Trump dossier, prepared by Christopher Steele and paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, claimed that Cohen made such a visit, during which he allegedly met with Kremlin insiders. However, Cohen denied being in Prague and no evidence surfaced to contradict him.
But now, McClatchy says that Cohen’s personal cellphone sent signals to a tower near Prague in the summer of 2016, at around the time that Steele alleges Cohen was meeting with Russians in that city.
McClatchy purports to rely on four unidentified sources. Back in April, McClatchy reported that two sources said an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up chatter in the summer of 2016 from a Russian who commented that Cohen was in Prague.
Was Cohen in Prague in the summer of 2016, after all? I don’t know. However, Cohen, who has turned decisively against Trump, still insists he wasn’t in Prague. Today, he tweeted:
I hear #Prague #CzechRepublic is beautiful in the summertime. I wouldn’t know as I have never been. #Mueller knows everything!
The last sentence of the tweet seems telling. As Chuck Ross points out, Cohen has pleaded guilty not just to supposed campaign finance violations, but also to lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. However, Cohen did not admit to lying to Congress when he denied claims made in the Steele dossier.
What incentive would Cohen have at this juncture to lie to Mueller about Prague, thereby withholding from Mueller information that might tend to show collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia? None that I can think of.
Other news outlets apparently have not been able to corroborate McClatchy’s reporting about Cohen/Prague. Indeed, Ross notes, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported in October that CIA and FBI sources said they don’t believe Cohen visited Prague. Maybe there is new evidence that might cause the CIA and the FBI to revise their opinion, but I don’t think we should assume there is.
Moreover, after McClathcy’s April report on buzz that Cohen visited Prague, Robert Mueller’s office took the unusual step of counseling media outlets to be cautious about any source that claims to have knowledge regarding what its investigation has uncovered. “Dig deep into what they claim before reporting on it,” Mueller’s spokesperson said, and “don’t run with it unless you have your own sourcing to back it up.”
That was good advice then and it’s good advice now.