The libertine’s one-way ticket from Prague

A sinister statue in Prague hints at Trump’s fall.

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.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

7 thoughts on “The libertine’s one-way ticket from Prague”

  1. I have also noted that Cohen's "denials" on the point have been suspiciously narrow: he hasn't been to Prague, and his passport doesn't show otherwise I have not heard him say that he was never at any meeting remotely similar the one described. His statements about where he was throughout all of the relevant time frame have also been vague and narrow. If he did use a passport- free crossing from, say, Germany to get to a meeting NEAR Prague, I am not sure that anything he has said is a provable lie. And if so, Christopher Steele's information could be correct in all but a very minor detail.

  2. There has to be a presidential library for his first edition of Two Corinthians.

    I know the tweets are archived, but are his people still using self-destructing messaging apps to do business?

  3. Read the Jonathan Greenberg story in WaPo. .

    Trump's demise will be the economic equivalent of Il Duce's. It is commonly known that most real estate development is based, to a greater or lesser degree, on leverage. We must assume that the leverage on Trump's real estate "empire" is fairly high. After all, that's the pattern and practice that he's follow for years. What is not commonly known, however, is the extent to which, in the ordinary course, the existing loans have to be periodically refinanced. This is not a Trump-specific practice, but it leaves him a greater risk when (yes, that's "when" not "if") he leaves office in disgrace.

    By way of example, who's going to pay a $200K entry fee to hobnob at Mar a Log with a disgrace who, as time goes by, becomes even more loud and unhinged from reality? If the financial performance of the Trump properties decline (and they surely will), the periodic re-financings, dicey even before he became president, become increasingly problematic.

    1. One thing I forgot: Do you really want to purchase a condo when you neighbors are corrupt oligarchs, some of who undoubtedly have blood on their hands? Would you finance a new condo project when the success of the developer's previous deals have relied on such unsavory people?

    2. I have suspected for a while that Trump's loans rely on guarantors whom he would prefer not be identified – quite likely Russians with ties to Putin.

      If reports are to be believed only Deutsche Bank has been willing to lend to him, which seems odd. Are they truly more aggressive, or dumber, than all other big banks?

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