Michael Cohen’s sentencing memos from SDNY and the Special Counsel’s Office leave one hole in the narrative – did he, in fact, go to Prague, and has he admitted this to investigators?
Patribotics is grateful to our readers, who make this reporting possible. Your support helps us break stories and hold Trump and Russia to account. Please consider a donation here
Based on today’s sentencing memos, the answers would seem to be ‘maybe’ and ‘no’ respectively. The SDNY memo discusses how Michael Cohen has withheld information. Here are the relevant paragraphs:
To be clear, neither the SCO nor this Office is making a motion under U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1. No such motion is being made because, as detailed herein, Cohen repeatedly declined to provide full information about the scope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged or had knowledge.
Indeed, his proffer sessions with the SCO aside, Cohen only met with the Office about the participation of others in the campaign finance crimes to which Cohen had already pleaded guilty. Cohen specifically declined to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past. Cohen further declined to meet with the Office about other areas of investigative interest.
As the Court is undoubtedly aware, in order to successfully cooperate with this Office, witnesses must undergo full debriefings that encompass their entire criminal history, as well as any and all information they possess about crimes committed by both themselves and others…. Cohen affirmatively chose not to pursue this process.https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/5453413/SCO-Cohen-Sentencing-Submission.pdf
The sentencing memo makes clear the SDNY’s belief that Cohen only admits his guilt once he knows his criminal conduct is already established.
Cohen has maintained he did not go to Prague, to discuss paying hackers. Yet, Mr. Cohen and those in his immediate orbit seemed scared that Mueller will find this out, too. His adult daughter Samantha, whose Instagram Mr. Cohen told journalists to examine for proof he was in LA, has now deleted her Instagram account.
In February 2017, Patribotics reported that Michael Cohen’s denial that he could possibly have gone to Prague, as the Steele Dossier asserted, was false. Although we could not absolutely assert from open source evidence that Mr. Cohen went to Prague, with the help of an army of citizen journalists researching on Twitter, we did manage to show that Cohen had lied about when he was in Los Angeles, and that private planes on which he habitually traveled were engaged in deceptive practice, apparently designed to conceal their movements from an observer.
On April 18 of this year, McClatchy’s well-known and respected national security correspondents Peter Stone and Greg Gordon reported that Special Counsel Bob Mueller had evidence that Cohen went to Prague, to meet and pay hackers working for Russia (who may, per the dossier, have had other nationalities) on behalf of the Trump campaign. That story said:
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.
However, Democratic investigators for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are conducting parallel inquiries into Russia’s election interference, also are skeptical about whether Cohen was truthful about his 2016 travels to Europe when he was interviewed by the panels last October, two people familiar with those probes told McClatchy this week.
One of the sources said congressional investigators have “a high level of interest” in Cohen’s European travel, with their doubts fueled by what they deem to be weak documentation Cohen has provided about his whereabouts around the time the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred.
Read more here: https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article208870264.html#storylink=cpy
Breaking this down, first, Gordon and Stone list sources familiar with Mueller’s investigation; secondly, they adduce two sources and describe the House and Senate probes in terms that make me think those sources are one staffer on each probe. The line in the story that made me reopen my own reporting was this:
congressional investigators ….doubts fueled by what they deem to be weak documentation Cohen has provided about his whereabouts around the time the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred.
Now, ‘supposed to have occurred’ means what the dossier asserts; the end of August and the beginning of September. That is where the McClatchy report meets our own story. Because it appears to imply that Mr. Cohen lied about the exact nature of his trip to Los Angeles. As we reported, Cohen told Rosie Gray of the Atlantic “that he was in Los Angeles from the 23rd through the 29th of August”. That was demonstrably false. On the 24th August, he was at Newark Airport.
Gray’s piece also bore this odd framing: “Cohen said that during the time the report places him in Prague, he was actually with his son visiting USC and meeting with the baseball coach. A USC baseball source confirmed Tuesday night that Cohen and his son had visited USC on August 29th. Cohen said that he was in Los Angeles from the 23rd through the 29th of August”
“Confirmed” is not the word I would have used. If Mr. Cohen said he was in Los Angeles “meeting with the baseball coach”, describing a key purpose of the trip, why did he only do so on the last day of that trip?
Per McClatchy, Congressional investigators were not convinced that Mr. Cohen indeed was in Los Angeles for the entire time that he said he was. Perhaps they asked for credit card receipts or photographs. Perhaps some enterprising staffer read Patribotics, noted our reporting and saw the discrepancy between Cohen’s 23-29 August dates and the tweet from 24th August.
Considered in this way, Cohen’s own word choice seems to indicate a great deal of nervousness about when he could be located in Los Angeles.
As noted in our first story, Cohen was very obviously keen for his passport to “prove” he hadn’t been to Prague. He famously tweeted out the cover, then referred readers to a Buzzfeed story in which he had provided that passport to the reporters. “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” was now adapted to “No stamp on the page, no Mike in a cage”. The lack of an entry stamp to Europe must mean an innocent Mr. Cohen. And yet, that was an obvious red herring; Cohen, by the dossier’s account, had gone secretly to Prague, and Russian intelligence planes would be highly unlikely to file manifests, land at major airports, or obtain nice little ‘Welcome to Moscow’ ink stamps for the FBI to pore over. He also repeatedly pointed to the meeting he had on the 29th. Cohen posted a photograph of himself at dinner on August 25th in Los Angeles, then his next geolocated tweet was August 28th at 1:53 pm from Beverley Hills.
Mr. Cohen’s tweets also show an odd discrepancy. They are all geolocated for the period of time in question – apart from one tweet on August 26th. Why did Cohen make a point of turning off location services for that day alone?
There is, thus, a gap in the public record from this very public man – from the night of August 25th to lunchtime on the 28th. Did he take a private plane from Los Angeles to Europe, to Germany as McClatchy reported? We are unlikely to find that out from open source intelligence. But it seems that this part of Mr. Cohen’s story is what Congress is doubting – and from the sentencing memos passed down today by SDNY and the Special Counsel’s office, Mr. Cohen may regret it bitterly if he is found to have held anything back.
And yet perhaps “Says Who” has gotten too much attention, and others in Trump’s orbit not enough. The Steele Dossier reported that Mr. Cohen had gone to Prague accompanied by three colleagues. In a special report tomorrow, Patribotics will examine open-source evidence on who might have joined Mr. Cohen in Prague to discuss how to hack the election.