Michael Cohen, the scandal-plagued personal lawyer for Donald Trump, was named in the Christopher Steele dossier as the Trump campaign emissary who took a trip to Prague, Czech Republic, in the summer of 2016 for a meeting with Russian officials to discuss Russia’s efforts to support Trump’s bid for president — and even to pay off hackers who broke into Democratic party servers and stole thousands of emails.
Cohen denied that allegation in the dossier — which is the private intelligence file viewable at this link, alleging Trump’s deep connections to Russia — claiming that he had never been to Prague and, in fact, had been vacationing in Capri, Italy, with, among others, Steve Van Zandt, longtime guitar player in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
But according to a report last month by the celebrity news site Showbiz 411, Van Zandt was not in Capri in the summer of 2016 and was not with Cohen. The E Street Band performed in Rome during that time, the site quoted a source as saying, but Van Zandt never left the Italian capital city.
Last month, McClatchy News reported that Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence showing that Cohen did, in fact, make a trip to Prague in the summer of 2016. Cohen again denied the allegation that he had been in Prague — and again claimed that he had, in fact, never visited Prague in his life.
Last week, a new, blockbuster report by BuzzFeed News cast a new shadow of doubt over Cohen’s whereabouts during the summer of 2016. According to the report, which recounted in detail Cohen’s attempt to get a Trump Tower Moscow project off the ground with the Russian government, Cohen told his longtime friend and business associate Felix Sater that he planned a trip to Moscow before the Republican National Convention that year, at which Trump would accept the party’s presidential nomination.
The convention ran from July 18 through July 21. According to BuzzFeed, the Moscow trip does not appear to have taken place. But Cohen earlier showed BuzzFeed a passport which appears to show that Cohen had entered Italy on July 9 and departed on July 17, one day before the convention.
During that time, because of agreements among European countries, Cohen could have traveled to Prague — or anywhere in 26 countries in Europe, without needing to get his passport stamped a second time. Russia is not among the 26 countries in that agreement — but according to the Steele Dossier, a trip to Moscow by Cohen was ruled out as being too vulnerable to public exposure.
But the newly reported statement by Cohen that he intended to travel to Moscow prior to the 2016 Republican convention appears to create a new mystery over his trip abroad at that critical time, according to independent Trump-Russia scandal investigator Seth Abramson.
“If Cohen told a friend he was going to Moscow right before the Republican National Convention, it confirms that his Italy “vacation” was a sham and he went to Prague or Moscow,” Abramson wrote on his Twitter feed. “His alibi in Capri has already fallen through.”
The BuzzFeed story by investigative reporters Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold also alleged that as part of his Trump Tower Moscow negotiations, Cohen communicated directly with “individuals (who) had knowledge of or played a role in 2016 election meddling,” according to FBI agents who were part of the ongoing Russia collusion investigation.
Though Cohen claimed that he had never visited Prague, investigative reporter David Corn said that when he interviewed Cohen following the 2016 election and the subsequent release of the Steele Dossier, Cohen told him that he had indeed visited Prague, albeit “for one afternoon 14 years ago.”
Whether the “discrepancy” means anything, Corn said he is unsure — but at the minimum, he noted, it indicates that Cohen has changed his story about Prague at least in one detail.