The staccato of continuous “bombshells” coinciding with the downfall the Russia-collusion hoax obscured one key element of the story explaining how the hoaxsters rehabilitated the indispensable lie about ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s alleged “payoff” of Russian “hackers.” Once again, Fusion GPS is likely behind another dirty trick designed to bring down President Trump.
One can almost hear the crisp “pop” of the latches of the attaché case we are supposed to imagine Cohen opened to reveal neat stacks of euro bills at a hotel somewhere in Prague. The mind can visualize Cohen pivoting the case so its open mouth is visible to the two hackers slouching on the hotel room’s couch, wearing zip-up tracksuits in vivid contrast to Cohen’s designer suit and linen shirt with the gold cufflinks.
An interpreter fluent in English, Russian, and Romanian occupies a high-backed chair as she translates Cohen thanking the hackers on behalf of a grateful candidate Trump. In a few seconds, the attending Russian GRU officer texts the Kremlin that their meeting in Prague was a success.
Of all of the many fanciful stories painted by the so-called Steele dossier, this scene in particular provides the crucial bridge between the Russians and Trump: money, hacking, exchange. The essence of “collusion” happened at that moment. Without it, the entire dossier and the collusion hoax unravels. The dossier makes the Prague story the climax of the Trump-Russia conspiracy narrative
In October 2016, just weeks before the 2016 election, the walls seemed to be closing in on the conspiracy. Police arrested a Russian hacker in a Czech hotel in early October. The New York Times reported the arrest on October 19, 2016. The same date in the Steele dossier reports this:
TRUMP’s representative COHEN accompanied to Prague in August/September 2016 by 3 colleagues for secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers Agenda included how to process deniable cash payments to operatives; contingency plans for covering up operations; and action in event of a CLINTON election victory Some further details of Russian representatives/operatives involved; Romanian hackers employed, and use of Bulgaria as bolthole to “lie low”
Anti-CLINTON hackers and other operatives paid by both TRUMP team and Kremlin, but with ultimate loyalty to Head of PA, IVANOV and his successor/s
McClatchy later reported that the Russian hacker arrested in Prague would soon be extradited to the United States, possibly providing a smoking gun to the Mueller probe. McClatchy also reported that “an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague,” and that “A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.”
The lie worked as a whisper but unraveled immediately when, on January 10, 2017, Buzzfeed exposed it to sunlight. Within hours, Czech Intelligence denied that Cohen even traveled to Prague. Cohen himself called the allegations absurd and claimed to have never been to Prague.
Cohen posted a link to a photograph of him standing next to his daughter outside a restaurant in America during the same time the dossier placed him in Prague. Cohen posted a photograph of his passport although failed to include the inside pages. Later, Cohen went back to Buzzfeed to show reporters the inside of his passport. On May 5, 2017, Buzzfeed published those photos.
Buzzfeed argued, pathetically, that Cohen entered a “Schengen Area: a group of 26 European countries, including the Czech Republic, that allows visitors to travel freely among them without getting any additional passport stamps.” But this trip ended on July 17, 2016—long before the alleged meeting in which Cohen was alleged to have paid off the hackers.
McClatchy’s story bolstering the Cohen-Prague trip was never corroborated. The reporters pushing the cell phone story were forced to admit “neither he nor colleague Peter Stone ever personally saw the phone and intelligence data, originally obtained by an Eastern European agency, that they claimed provides evidence that President Trump’s former lawyer could have been in the Czech capital in the summer of 2016.”
McClatchy’s reporters relied upon anonymous “third-hand information.” Cohen never backed off his original denials in spite of the fact that had he done so credibly, he would likely escape some or all of his impending three-year prison sentence.
But where did McClatchy get this story? Investigative journalist Paul Sperry recently answered this question: From Fusion GPS. As Sperry reported, Fusion now works for something called “The Democracy Integrity Project,” which “pumps out daily ‘research briefings’ to prominent Washington journalists, as well as congressional staffers, to keep the Russia ‘collusion’ narrative alive.”
Sperry further identified a bombshell of his own: Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson “also appears to have been the source behind another discredited McClatchy story about Trump attorney Michael Cohen traveling to Prague during the campaign to hatch a plot with Kremlin officials to hack Clinton campaign emails.”
Cohen is back in the news again. In early April, Cohen’s attorneys released a new 12-page memo in a desperate bid to reduce his prison time for a variety of fraud charges. The memo basically regurgitates some of the shopworn talking points from the Trump-Russia collusion narrative without offering any new evidence. Nowhere does he mention a trip to Prague.
Cohen’s office, you may remember, was raided pursuant to a search warrant out of the Southern District of New York. Last month, the U.S. attorney finally released a heavily redacted search warrant affidavit that revealed Cohen was actually subject to search warrants almost immediately. On or about July 18, 2017, the FBI obtained search warrants for Cohen’s email. Subsequent search warrants extracted virtually every electronic document in his possession.
So why has it taken so long to admit that Cohen did not go to Prague to pay hackers?
Twelve days after Cohen produced his passport, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to investigate (perpetuate?) the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. The investigation lumbered on for nearly two years after Cohen proved he never went to Prague. The facts never mattered. Mueller knew the truth before he first turned on the lights in the special counsel’s office.
But the cost of this probe has been immense.
Never mind the salaries of 19 lawyers and 40 FBI agents. The misery has been incalculable. Mueller presided over a reign of terror. Paul Manafort is in constitutionally suspect prolonged solitary confinement for white-collar crimes unrelated to Mueller’s mandate. Michael Flynn is bankrupted and convicted of a felony for misremembering a conversation. Attorney-client privilege was tossed aside. Political speech has been criminalized.
But most of all, there were the search warrants invading the privacy of 500 Americans. That’s almost one per business day that Mueller ran his operation. Add to that the staggering 2,800 subpoenas crushing Americans with unbearable response burdens. And do not forget the 500 Americans forced to sweat interrogations by federal agents.
Count your lucky stars that these thugs didn’t win.
Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images