OK, the weather outside is frightful but it is Prague Summer in Washington. The proximate cause - a puzzling McClatchy report that Mueller has evidence that Trump lawyer WAS in Prague in August or early September of 2016. The controversial Steele dossier alleged that Cohen was there colluding with the Russians; Cohen denied it, Jake Tapper had sources backing the denial, and eventually Cohen showed Buzzfeed (the original publisher of the dossier) his passport, which had no entries to Europe at the time in question.
Presumably Tapper is tearing his hair out trying to pin this down, so go long Rogaine. (Pro Tip - don't attempt this sort of equity advisory work at home.)
In any case, I love a mystery! Phillip Bump of the WaPo explains that this is a Big Deal (No f-bombs in the WaPo, please):
But this contradiction between a clear allegation from the Steele dossier and the assertion that it wasn’t true by Cohen and Trump helped drive the idea that the dossier was broadly discredited shortly after its release. Pick out the Prague trip and nothing that follows could have happened. Put the Prague trip back into the mix? A lot of the other parts of that allegation now become possible.* What’s more, it undermines the credibility of those who insisted that the claim was completely without merit.
Look at it another way: If the central conceit of the Steele’s claim were accurate — that Cohen was working with agents of the Russian government directly to aid Trump’s candidacy — it would be very hard to argue that no collusion took place. That likely requires Cohen’s having been in Prague.
And of course, busting Cohen in a lie and cover-up of this magnitude would be impressive, not to mention, it would leave us wondering why he tried so hard to hide it.
Mr. Bump does a good job linking to the Tapper and Buzzfeed reports but leaves out a key caveat from the latter: Cohen might have a second passport, issued either by the US or a foreign country. In the spirit of St Patrick I will note that those of us with Irish heritage, in addition to our many other blessings, are often eligible for Irish citizenship and then a passport. That's contingent on parents or grandparents hailing from the Old Country; as a nice Jewish lad from Long Island Cohen is not an obvious candidate, although we know nothing about his grandparents.
Nor do we need to - Cohen is a slam-dunk for an Israeli passport under their Right of Return. Does he have one and would he occasionally use it for subtle travel abroad? Magic Eightball says "Why ask me? What are we paying these Trump-obsessed journos for, anyway?"
Yeah, my Magic Eightball when I was a kid was much pithier, too, but with wifi and cloud storage and everything - c'mon, get with the 21st century.
A POINT TO PONDER: From Buzzfeed:
Altogether, Cohen’s passport shows he has visited at least a dozen countries during the last eight years: St. Maarten, England, Scotland, St. Barthélemy, France, Italy, Anguilla, Georgia, Turkey, Hong Kong, Macau, and Kazakhstan.
What catches my eye is the absence of a mention of trips to Israel. People who travel to both Israel and some of its foes can get a second US passport to avoid awkward moments at immigration (an Israeli stamp will be a bar to admittance in some countries.)
I'm sure there are plenty of people, Jewish and otherwise, who have not gone to Israel. And Cohen's globe-trotting for Trump's businesses may have been limited since he is a US lawyer. (Team Trump has poked at a few things in Israel). but But if he has mentioned in interviews a trip to Israel, that might be a clue. Or maybe one of his Facebook/Instagram followers could chime in? Hmm, he has two kids - have they posted family pics from the Wailing Wall? The journalistic ethics are dubious but the insight might be priceless. ("Journalistic ethics"! I know, right? I'm off to enjoy some jumbo shrimp.)
DETAILS, DETAILS: This passage from the McClatchy report is at best wildly misleading:
But investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders. The disclosure still left a puzzle: The sources did not say whether Cohen took a commercial flight or private jet to Europe, and gave no explanation as to why no record of such a trip has surfaced.
Cohen would not have needed a passport at the German-Czech border, so it is true that the Czech government may have no record of his presence in their country. However, Cohen would have needed a passport to enter the Schengen region in Germany, or wherever. Ask 'em all!