Two sources familiar with the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, say that special counsel Robert Mueller now has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, made a secret trip to Prague in the summer of 2016. Cohen, who is currently being investigated for bank fraud and had his offices raided by the FBI last week, had previously claimed he had never been to Prague.
Congressional investigators also have a “high level of interest” in Cohen’s travel in 2016 and cite Cohen’s weak documentation about his whereabouts during the time the Prague meeting was supposedly happening. Cohen claims only to have traveled to New York and Los Angeles in August of 2016 during the time the meeting of the meeting, although it is also believed the meeting could have taken place in September.
The development is significant because should it be found that Cohen was in Prague during the months in question in 2016 it would give credence to a report put together by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that Cohen met with top ranking Russian officials to coordinate interference in 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump’s campaign.
Cohen has denied traveling to Prague and has called the now famous Steele dossier fabricated. “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews,” Cohen tweeted when the report was made public in January 2017.
Former British Spy Christopher Steele allegedly gleaned the information in the dossier from Kremlin sources. The dossier was financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign after originally being contracted by conservative opponents of Donald Trump’s during the Republican primaries. The report cites several meetings between Russian officials and Michael Cohen, which would be damming evidence of collusion if proved to be true.
Cohen is alleged to have met with two Russian officials and several Eastern European hackers to discuss how “deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign,” the dossier states. It is believed that Russian-backed hackers are responsible for the theft of tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee as well as high-ranking officials within the Clinton campaign.
Investigators have reportedly traced Cohen’s route to the Czech Republic through Germany. Cohen, who would not have needed a passport to cross into the Czech Republic from Germany, allowed the news outlet Buzzfeed to inspect his passport last year. “The #Russian dossier is WRONG!” he would Tweet afterward.
Though the President and his allies have attacked the dossier as fabricated, much of the claims laid out in the thirty-five-page document have been borne out. Republicans on Capitol Hill have accused the FBI and the Department of Justice of using the report as a basis for their investigation into the Trump campaign, but the FBI has denied the dossier played a role in the opening of their investigation.
According to the FBI, their investigation into the Trump campaign began on July 31, 2016 – more than seven weeks before the their closely-held investigative team received the reporting that was conducted Steele.
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