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Hullabaloo


Sunday, April 15, 2018

 

Moscow on the Hudson

by Tom Sullivan

The jury is out on whether McClatchy's report about Trump attorney Michael Cohen visiting Prague. "Count me cautious," tweeted Benjamin Wittes, describing the sourcing as "relatively thin." Here is the gist from McClatchy:

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.
The date of the supposed visit is not clear and Cohen's repeated denials he ever visited Prague have been unequivocal. But this is Michael Cohen. Marcy Wheeler noticed something in his lawyer's motion to show cause, filed over the FBI raid on his home and offices:
But the entire paragraph claiming that the investigation into him derives from the Steele dossier — aside from being false both in this investigation into his taxi business and hush payments, and false in the larger Russia investigation that also pertains to his attempts to set up a Trump Tower in Moscow — is not backed by a sworn declaration at all. Indeed, Harrison is silent on the issue of the Steele dossier.

Cohen would like Judge Kimba Wood to believe that the dossier has been debunked. But his lawyer is unwilling to stake his own legal reputation on the claim.

This is a more subtle version of what Cohen tried in his declaration to the House Intelligence Committee. That declaration stopped short of outright denying the dossier’s allegations (aside that he went to Prague) then, and this one falls even further short.

So whether or not Cohen went to Prague, it seems that his lawyer is unwilling to claim the other things in the dossier are false.
Trump and those in his circle seem to make a habit of over-denying certain allegations and coming back to them again and again. Trump's repeatedly bringing up the "pee tape" mentioned in the Steele dossier caught former FBI chief James Comey's attention, as mentioned in his new book.

Cohen's insistence he never, ever visited Prague leads one wondering as well, not to mention (as Wheeler did), his lawyer's reluctance to take a stand on the claim. Andrew Prokop writes at Vox:
If the McClatchy report was accurate, it would utterly devastate one of the Trump team’s leading arguments that there was no Trump-Russia collusion. That’s because, to be blunt, there is no reason for Cohen to try to debunk the Steele dossier by lying and saying that he didn’t visit Prague at all if he actually did, unless he was trying to cover up extremely serious wrongdoing that happened during that visit.
But like many of Trump's circle, Cohen might be the sharpest tool. As his lawyers fought for him in a federal investigation into his business dealings, photographers spotted Cohen casually smoking cigars with friends outside the Loews Regency Hotel on Park Avenue.

Trump's need to believes himself the smartest guy in the room explains a lot of his hiring decisions.

See Josh Marshall's take.

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