Update: A patriot on Twitter has found another plane, not appearing in the Beauty Central fleet listed online, N789LR, serial number 5100, that made a stop in Belgium in September. She is a GV, with Mode S listed as 52531377
When the Steele dossier was published by Buzzfeed, with an entirely appropriate amount of caveats, other journalistic outlets rushed to pour cold water on it, and wrongly so.
Chief among these was CNN. Acting as if Buzzfeed had not offered caveats alongside the publication, CNN blasted the news site as though they had irresponsibly published ‘fake news’.
In fact, the credibility of Chris Steele was sky-high in the intelligence community, and the heads of all three agencies had included his dossier as an addendum to the Russian hacking report they produced for the President (Obama, at the time; but Trump was also given a version of it).
One bit of journalistic malfeasance committed by CNN was that they rubbished the dossier’s claims on Michael Cohen without doing independent journalistic research of their own.
Inanely, CNN claimed that they had it “confirmed” that Michael Cohen was not in Prague, Czech Republic, when the dossier said he was.
They based this on the fact that, as they claimed, “a different Michael Cohen” had been in Prague around that time, according to a passport stamp. This has nothing to do with the matter one way or the other, and a little thought by CNN would have borne that out. The dossier alleged that Cohen went to Prague and another EU country; that was rated as low confidence as to both location and to exact timing. August, at one point; late August or early September at another point. Furthermore, Steele did not, contrary to CNN’s implication, present location or timing as a fact. It was secondhand; he reported as fact that Kremlin insiders said this, and Steele rated the exact location and timing as low confidence.
More interesting was the substance of Steele’s allegations as to why – he reported sources said – Cohen was meeting Russians outside of the US. Firstly, it was to pay off hackers. The dossier made the claim that these were both the hackers who had attacked Clinton, and a company that ran a Twitter botnet (possibly also a Facebook one as I shall later report).
I took as my starting point the idea that the Steele dossier should be believed and would be for the most part correct; and that it was more likely to be right than wrong. The reason I took this attitude is that all three heads of US intelligence agencies had included Steele’s dossier as an adjunct to their report to the President.
That is utterly extraordinary and represents a massive vote of confidence in Steele’s work. The heads of the FBI, CIA and NSA are not in the habit of including tabloid sensationalism in their official reports, whether as an adjunct or anything else. I do not wish to waste too much time on this, as the report was self-evidently believed to be credible; but contrary to lazy reporting by CNN and others, the dossier was not rubbished by the same agency heads who included it. They said they had not verified the whole of it. That is all. And, again, since parts of the work were not independently verified, its inclusion by the IC represented a colossal vote of confidence in the credibility of Chris Steele (if you are reading this sir please get in touch with me. You are a patriot, may God bless you).
Tracking Planes (for No Fun and No Profit)
Very well then. I posted on Twitter that ‘unverified’ and ‘unverifiable’ are not synonymous and I started looking for ways to verify the dossier. The first clue was that Cohen did not deny it. Rather, he gave fatuous and whataboutery excuses. To Rosie Gray of the Atlantic, Mr. Cohen stated that he had gone to Los Angeles from the 23rd August onwards. He then tweeted:
Feeling like a
@RadarOnlineCom celebrity debunking the Russia connection…all thanks to my daughter’s Instagram
Radar Online is owned by Pecker, of ‘Trump loves Pecker’ fame. The piece tweeted by Cohen, who presumably handed Radar their lines, stated that there was “proof” that Cohen never left the USA in August based on metadata from his Twitter account:
Metadata from Cohen’s account confirms that he never posted from outside the United States in the entire month of August.
The piece also contains video of Cohen on the Sean Hannity show, which is instructional. Cohen says he has never been to Prague and ‘proved’ it to Mr. Trump by showing Mr. Trump his passport. Cohen also points Hannity to the ‘other Michael Cohen’ jumped on by CNN as ‘proof’ that Steele had got it wrong.
Breaking Down Cohen’s Statements and Inferring Why He Made Them
Cohen therefore wanted us to believe that:
a) his social media accounts could prove his whereabouts
b) the second Michael Cohen being in Prague meant that he himself could not also have been in Prague
c) The lack of a stamp in his passport proves he could not have left the country.
Taking as my starting point that Chris Steele is likely correct, I would treat all of the above as likely true on the face of it, but actually false in implied meaning; so that let us assume yes, a different Michael Cohen was in Prague; let us assume that Michael Cohen’s current passport has no stamp for Prague or out of the country at all in the month of August and September; and that his social media accounts do not have any nice easy ‘Sent from Prague’ or ‘sent from Moscow’ geotagging on them.
None of that would, however, disprove the allegations in the Steele dossier, which is the implication behind making those assertions.
It is disappointing that American media would treat the one as proving the other. CNN spoke with reverence of a ‘second Michael Cohen’ as if that somehow meant the first one could not have left the United States. A Twitter account I now believe to be a peddler of disinformation tried to feed out the line that Cohen had an Israeli passport with a single day’s difference, explained by the time difference, and that he used this. Now, it is certainly possible that there is only one Michael Cohen who was in Prague on an Israeli passport rather than an American one. But ‘Michael Cohen’ is a common enough name. And the dossier alleged that Cohen was meeting Russian intelligence in order to arrange payment for hackers of the election.
It is a fact, indeed, that a Russian hacker, Yvgeny Nikulin, came to Prague to be paid on October 5th and was picked up there by Cezch intelligence on a red warrant from the FBI.
How likely is it that a lawyer representing Donald Trump and meeting with Russian intelligence, to pay off hackers that had attacked the US election on behalf of Russia, would have any stamps in his passport of any country? He would be trying for secrecy, and even if Mr. Cohen is a risible fool, as he is, adamantly denying he had ever been to Prague:
I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews
and then telling the Wall Street Journal that he had been to Prague in 2001; even if, as I say, Mr. Cohen was a bombastic fool, Russian intelligence were not fools, and they would, presumably, take good care to get Mr. Cohen into and out of the United States without any stamp in any passport he might legitimately own; and with no record of exit or entry into the United States.
Mr. Cohen’s Story Is Provably Untrue
Cohen’s story unraveled immediately, in so far as he contradicted himself to the Wall Street Journal about ‘ever’ going to Prague. But perhaps he forgot, even though Prague is a very lovely city. Being generous, Mr. Cohen is a well-traveled man, who might indeed have forgotten a trip some 15 years ago. However, he made other, stupid slip-ups. He told Rosie Gray at the Atlantic:
Cohen said that he was in Los Angeles from the 23rd through the 29th of August, and that the rest of the month he was in New York.
However, Cohen’s own timeline includes a tweet that shows that on the 24th August he was at Newark airport.
I have repeatedly asked Rosie Gray why she has not amended her story to note Cohen’s statement to her is false, but she has not yet responded.
Why would Cohen lie about this? He also makes strange statements on how it can be ‘verified’ that he was where he says he was later in the month; calling other people, etc. Frankly all Mr. Cohen would need to do would be to produce some credit card receipts or photographs of himself in the US. He has not done so, according to other journalists also working on substantiating the dossier.
All Thanks to My Daughter’s Instagram
Mr. Cohen told the world that we should examine his adult daughter’s instagram account, so I did just that. With the help of various people on Twitter, I was able to get precise dates on some of Ms. Cohen’s pictures.
One such picture she posted showed that she boarded a flight back to the United States on January 2nd. (If it was indeed ever deleted, it is now back online). Prior to that, she had been in St. Bart’s. This was mildly interesting to me since Russians, and particularly Chelsea’s Roman Abramovitch, descend on St. Bart’s every Christmas.
The picture was taken from a window seat and showed a distinctive marking on the wingtip. I asked on Twitter if pilots or other aviation professionals could help me identify the plane. Immediately a number came forward to state that it was a Gulfstream, which they could tell by the positioning of the wing flaps relative to the rest of the wing. They further identified the plane as a G5, specifically. Shortly after that, somebody found the plane and found the tail number. It was N999LR.
I then researched the ownership of this plane. It was registered to ‘Beauty LLC’. Through ordinary flight trackers I could determine that she had flown from St. Maarten to HPN, a small airport in Westchester. There was quite a bit of diving into ‘Beauty LLC’. At first they appeared to be something to do with Cohen, as they were registered in the same building as some of his companies. But Beauty LLC owned several planes in its fleet. I started to wonder how Mr. Cohen, doubtless a successful lawyer, could be rich enough to own not one but several private jets.
The small airport where the jets live, HPN, is next to a ConAir facility and also, I am told, although I have not yet checked this out, one of Donald Trump’s golf courses. It appeared to be more probable that the planes were owned by ConAir and that (although common) the ‘LR’ at the end of the tail number might stand for ‘Leandro Rizutto’, the owner of ConAir.
I put this question to Mr. Cohen on Twitter and his reply was most helpful. Showing him a screengrab of his daughter’s Instagram picture, I asked him how often he flew Mr. Rizutto’s planes out of the country. I also asked Cohen where he was between August 19th and August 22nd. He had given wrongful information to Rosie Gray that he was in LA from the 23rd August, when in fact, his TL showed him tweeting from Newark on the 24th. His timeline on Twitter also geotagged one tweet late on the 19th August and another on the 22nd August. I asked him:
You know when you told us all to look at your daughter’s instagram? We did. Where were you August 19-22?
@LouiseMensch in Los Angeles…verified by the press. This picture was taken in January, 2017
That was fascinating. I had tagged my tweet #LeandroRizutto and Cohen did not dispute my identification of this plane. Furthermore, his tweet was utterly perplexing to me. He said that his whereabouts “August 19-22” had been verified by the press, but they had not been. His (false) statement to the Atlantic only claimed (wrongly) that he was in LA from the 23rd onwards. He had tweeted from Newark on the 24th. Why would Cohen say that? on August 19th, late, he was tweeting with geolocation from Manhattan, NY (and therefore could not have been in Los Angeles). On the 22nd, again, he is geolocated by a tweet from Manhattan,New York. So he was not “in Los Angeles” nor could “the press” verify something his own Twitter adamantly contradicted.
Based on my knowledge of men in general, I would venture to argue that they are creatures of habit. If Mr. Cohen, who in some way seemed to be linked to Beauty Central, had flown Rizutto’s G5 (assuming my guess was correct, and Cohen did not contradict it) back from vaycay in St. Bart’s, was it not probable he’d flown with him before?
Planes, too, loomed large in the overall story of the Trump camp’s alleged collusion with Russia. Dimity Rybolovev’s plane had landed for what quite clearly seemed to be tarmac meetings with the Trump camp in Charlotte, NC, on Nov 3; Las Vegas, Nevada; and . Rybolvev’s plane MKATE had also been parked in the Hamptons when the Cohen family appeared to be in residence there.
Asking Mr. Cohen About A Flight to the Bahamas, August 19-22
I pulled the flight history for two planes that were still active in the same fleet. N999LR – a G5, the plane that appeared in Mr. Cohen’s daughter’s instagram – showed a curious gap in its flight history in August, all the way through to late September, of which more later.
N555LR, the G4, had however flown to the Bahamas on August 19 taking the flight path HPN-FOK-Nassau. She returned August 22nd the same route. This broadly fits the gap in Mr. Cohen’s Twitter timeline, although one tweet shows as being geolocated in Manhattan after the outbound flight. I asked Mr. Cohen if he had been on that flight. He had answered me that he was in Los Angeles on 19-22nd, but his Twitter timeline shows he was not. I put this question to him whether he took either flight to or from the Bahamas in that period. He has not responded and later blocked me on Twitter.
I do not assert that Mr. Cohen was on that flight. The allegation against him made in the dossier is, however, a legitimate one for journalists to investigate. I believe that the issue of passports and ‘another Michael Cohen’ is a red herring. Mr. Cohen is accused of having met with Russian intelligence, and it is highly likely that were this to be true, the Russians could get him in and out of America without a passport being stamped at all.
My theory of how this might have happened is as follows. Mr. Cohen would have taken the flight out, possibly being picked up in West Hampton at the FOK stop. In the Bahamas, he would have disembarked on the tarmac and boarded another plane – rather as MKate arranged tarmac meetings. This plane would have flown him to the EU or to Russia, where he would either have not disembarked at all, meeting somebody on board the plane, or disembarked using fake documents provided by Russia, diplomatic cover, a bribe to a guard at a friendly private airport or any number of other ruses by which a state spying actor could disembark an asset. He would have arranged some kind of payment, as the dossier alleges, and then got back on the plane, landed in Nassau, and taken N555LR back to FOK and/or HPN.
Indeed, the limits on this analysis are only bounded by two geolocated tweets from Manhattan on the 19th and 22. Had Mr. Cohen handed his phone to somebody else to place those tweets for him, he could have boarded the plane on the 19th and spent longer in the EU or Russia, returning to Newark airport on the morning of the 24th in order to catch his flight to Los Angeles.
I strongly suspect that Mr. Cohen did really have the use of his own phone by the 24th, if only because he made that obvious error in stating that he had been in Los Angeles on the 23rd.
Later Mr. Cohen backtracked to me blustering that Newark was an airport and that he had flown Virgin to his daughter in LA – presumably verifiable. But he told Rosie Gray he was in Los Angeles on the 23rd and he asserted to me he was in Los Angeles on 19-22nd. What plane did he take there on the 19th, then? If I were the FBI I would ask that question.
Hiding the Planes, Or Planes in Plane Sight?
Separately to the issue of Mr. Cohen’s whereabouts as asserted vs his Twitter timeline, August 19 – 24th inclusive, I had become interested in the planes of Beauty LLC.
Again, I make no assertion that Mr. Cohen did indeed fly to the Bahamas on August 19-22nd on N555LR. But as a journalist, I am interested in exploring the theory of how it might have happened, and if so, what that implied.
In the entirely theoretical situation in which this fleet of planes carried Cohen to the first leg of a clandestine meeting with Russian intelligence they would repay looking at.
So I looked.
What follows owes a great deal to a number of patriotic aviation professionals current and former who assisted me on Twitter and whom I will credit in an update to this article if I receive their permissions.
The first thing noted by almost everybody was that there was an improbably large gap in the flight history of the GV, N999LR. This gap covered August and September 2016. Those are, of course, the dates that the Steele dossier alleges there were meetings with the Trump camp and Russia.
I make no allegation here of malfeasance on the part of Beauty LLC, its owners, or anybody else. I plan simply to report the unusual facts that I found in public records and to allow intelligence professionals and mainstream media journalists with more resources than I have to investigate whether or not what I report here has a simple and innocuous explanation, which it may well do, or not.
The flight histories of all planes in the fleet were made private soon after I started asking public questions about them. That could easily be, of course, simply because private jet owners and charter users prefer privacy. Nonetheless I continued to look.
Aircraft are identified by a number of markers. The N-number, which can be changed; the serial number of the aircraft; and the S-code number or number of the transponder.
Looking at the current and former fleet of Beauty Central LLC I discovered the three following odd things, which I will the evidence of in a postscript in order to get to the meat of my possibly relevant (and possibly not relevant) discovery:
- The N-Number N450GA, a G1V, was shown as registered to Beauty Central and then to two other registrants. All of those planes had different serial numbers listed in the database. All, however, shared the identical S-Code transponder number.
- The N-number N33LR was used in Beauty Central for two entirely separate planes; a GV with serial number 5031, and a GIV with serial number 1495. However, these two entirely separate planes were listed in the database as sharing one S-Code transponder number.
- A GV with the serial number 5031 was listed as registered to Beauty Central LLC on August 3, 2016. Its N-number was N795BA. However, this GV 5031 had a **different transponder S-Code number ** than when GV 5031 was named N33LR, see above.
- N795BA’s last trackable flight was on August 12, after which, she goes dark.
- When one of my volunteer patriot researchers, who had first seen N450GA listed in Beauty Central LLC’s fleet as a former plane of their with status ‘inactive’ looked again, she found that it no longer appeared for her in the list:
- N795BA – the number no longer appears in the FAA’s database for 5031. A pilot described it to me as ‘weird as hell’ that this deregistered number was not the FAA database. They are meant to stay here.
This was sufficient to start tracking every plane in the fleet, current or former. To be clear, as I have said, there may well be an innocent explanation. But it is at the least unusual to have two different aircraft sharing the same transponder S-Code – and for one of those aircraft, the GV, serial number 5031, that became N795BA after being N33LR, to switch transponder numbers between incarnations.
Since I had a gap in August from August 12th on in the G5(s) N999LR, N795BA and N33LR, I chose to look – and was alerted to – the flights of N450GA.
Readers who are not already dead from boredom will recall that what was odd about N450GA is that although the N-Number appeared to leave Beauty Central’s fleet, and be assigned to two other companies’ planes with different serial numbers, the S-Code transponder number was always the same. Furthermore, N450GA showed flights in the same period that the GV/s of Beauty Central – N999LR and N795BA – showed no flights.
Therefore I will report what trackers showed N450GA did in that period. I make no allegation that Mr. Cohen or Beauty Central had anything to do with these flights, but they are worth investigation based on my reporting about what appears to be unusual data on the registrations of the fleet.
On August 12, she flew from Detroit to Halifax. On August 13, from Halifax to Lyon, in France. On August 14th, she flew, according to records, from just outside Florence to just outside Moscow. (There does not appear to be any record of the flight from Lyon to Florence). And on August 15th, she flew from Moscow to remote Wyoming, to Bow National Forest.
UPDATE: a pilot tells me the plane did not stop in Wyoming but flew to San Jose:
Probably not significant, but N450GA does not end in Wyoming on 8/15. In my data, the track is lost temporarily (2245Z-2330Z) 45,000 ft above Provo, Utah, picks up again above Nevada and lands in San Jose, CA.
That is, thus far, what my researches have shown. It certainly does not prove Mr. Cohen went to the Bahamas or met with anybody in Moscow. But as he was not where he said he was, and as he is keen to pretend that Twitter data can alone prove whereabouts, I believe that it is worth asking about.
Mr. Cohen’s Apparent Relationship With Pro-Russian Twitter Trolls Fits One Allegation Made in the Dossier
When I started talking to Mr. Cohen on Twitter asking about his whereabouts on August 19-22, immediately a bunch of fake Putinbot accounts, some with Ukranian IP addresses, started to @ me. Mr. Cohen would also himself RT these accounts. In particular they started making excuses for Cohen‘s whereabouts. One Russian troll RTed things like this. The dossier alleges that Mr. Cohen paid a company that ran a bot net out of Russia, which infected Democrats and others with viruses. He certainly regularly retweets Putinbots who seem to know him well, and to be directly connected to the Trump administration. He said to me he would meet me around the first week of March. Others tweeted and instantly deleted that Cohen was at a Chris Christie fundraiser when he said he was in LA.
This same Putinbot account tweeted:
@MichaelCohen212 is an amazing man who has done an amazing job! lots of behind the scenes work getting us President Trump!
Under this, there was a gif of Vladimir Putin clapping.
If Mr. Cohen comes back to me with a substantive reply on August 19-22 that is not wrong on its face, I will update this post.
A few images relating to plane registrations discussed above. More will be added later.
N450GA has the transponder 51271263 – serial 4189
Now N555LR, Serial number 4189, but a different transponder number: 51611410
N999LR, serial number 5481, Mode S Code 53372434
N33LR was used as for a GV, 5031, and a G4, 1495
But both of these aircraft shared the same transponder number – 50712200 – when they each bore this N-Number. Sources say this is odd
As N795BA, the GV with serial number 5031 had a different transponder to this: now it is 52545262
And as N899AL, the G4 with serial number 1495 ALSO had a different transponder number – now it’s Mode S Code 53063316
All pretty strange, as is the simultaneous delivery date of one plane to (apparently) two companies:
As I have written, there may be a perfectly simple explanation for all of it, but I believe it is worth journalists examining.