One of the most specific accusations in Christopher Steele’s dossier on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia was that Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen had made a trip to Prague in August or September 2016 to meet several high-level Russians connected to the Kremlin. They discussed Russian assistance to the Trump campaign.
Cohen flatly denied this in a tweet:
No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague.
Now McClatchy reporters say that the Mueller inquiry has evidence Cohen was lying and did in fact travel to Prague at that time. They don’t say they have evidence he met any Russians. But why should Cohen have lied about the trip if he didn’t? Points to Steele. Cohen may be engaging in literal truth-telling, if the meeting was held at a country hotel like this one. That won’t help him.
If Mueller has information about the meeting, it is probably reliable. It doesn’t seem likely that the Czech intelligence services would fail to keep tabs on visiting Russian spooks and politicians. It would be characteristic of the Trumpistas to underrate the competence of mere Slavs. Reinhard Heydrich did too, and in May 1942 the Czech government in exile in London ordered him killed – knowing very well that savage reprisals were likely. But the Germanisation programme stalled under Heydrich’s successor Ernst Kaltenbrunner, a man just as evil, but without Heydrich’s charisma and drive, and distracted by his main job as head of the secret police.
The claim also helps to make more sense of the apparent overkill of the search warrants on Cohen’s office, home and hotel room, which had to be approved by officials at a very high level in the DOJ. He may well have committed crimes against US election law in the botched payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, but that’s a garden-variety story. Conspiring with the Kremlin to rig an American election is on a different level, and justifies the risk of going after the personal lawyer of the US President. The point holds even if the Prague meeting was outside the scope of the warrants and the offloaded investigation.
Prague is very nice place to visit, even if you only have a day or so. It was undamaged in WWII, and gives an idea what other central European cities – Dresden, Lübeck, Nuremberg, Vienna, Budapest – must have looked like before they came under the loving attentions of RAF Bomber Command, the USAAF, or the artillery of the Red Army. All I know about sub rosa tradecraft is from John le Carré, but if it had been me, I’d have combined business with pleasure, and “accidentally” bumped into the Russians in a beer cellar.
Even in a day trip just walking around the centre, you come across a startling statue outside the opera house, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni premiered in October 1787. Side view of the Commendatore:
The front view is pure Tolkien:
Harold Pollack predicted here that Trump’s political career will end in disgrace. We were both wrong about the election, but I still think he was right about the destination. I can’t guess either what form disgrace will take. However, the Commendatore reminds us that the height of Trump’s fall is not bounded by that of Richard Nixon. Nixon was forced to resign in shame, but after Ford’s pardon was left alone in a dignified retirement. There are circles of disgrace much lower than this. The bottom is represented by the deaths of Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci near Milan in May 1945. They were shot by partisans without trial, and their bodies hung upside-down in a square in Milan for the crowd to spit and jeer at. Trump won’t face this. But his possible futures do include death in prison, followed by a semi-secret funeral that hardly anyone outside his immediate family will attend.
I doubt there will be a Trump presidential library.