Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is warning that “many” news articles on the Trump-Russia probe have been wrong.
The statement from a spokesperson did not single out particular stories. But the warning did come after media inquiries about a McClatchy News story on Friday that said Mr. Mueller has evidence that President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, did in fact travel to Prague in 2016 as alleged by the Christopher Steele dossier.
“What I have been telling all reporters is that many stories about our investigation have been inaccurate,” the Mueller spokesperson said. “Be very cautious about any source that claims to have knowledge about our investigation and dig deep into what they claim before reporting on it. If another outlet reports something, don’t run with it unless you have your own sourcing to back it up.”
The statement was reported by the Daily Caller and confirmed by The Washington Times.
The McClatchy story on Friday lit up liberal media outlets since, if true, it would confirm a major charge by the British ex-spy. Mr. Steele wrote that Mr. Cohen traveled secretly to Prague in August 2016 to meet Vladimir Putin aides to conspire to cover up Russian hacking of Democratic Party computers. In other words: Trump-Russia collusion.
There has been no official or press confirmation of Mr. Steele’s Prague allegation nor of a number of other Steele collusion charges. His work was financed by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
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For his part, Mr. Cohen has repeatedly denied under oath, and thus under the penalty of perjury, that he traveled to Prague. If he did in fact go there, he would be unlikely to lie under oath to Congress since the FBI’s investigative powers would be able to track his movements.
After the McClatchy story, Mr. Cohen tweeted on Saturday, “Bad reporting, bad information and bad story by same reporter Peter Stone @McClatchyDC. No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague. I was in LA with my son. Proven!”
Mr. Cohen has provided trip records to reporters to show he was in California for a time in August 2016 when Mr. Steele says the visit happened. Mr. Cohen has also displayed his passport.
There have been no independent media reports that Mr. Mueller acquired Prague trip evidence outside of the dossier itself and an interview his people conducted with Mr. Steele.
Another factor that weighs against the Prague trip is that the special counsel has not asked Mr. Cohen to produce a wide array of documents, according to a U.S. government filing on Friday.
The filing relates to a matter apparently unrelated to Trump-Russia: the FBI raided Mr. Cohen’s office and home on April 9 to search for evidence that he committed crimes in his business dealings.
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The filing states that Mr. Mueller made a “narrow” request for documents in his Russia probe and that Mr. Cohen had not yet complied.
It would seem that if Mr. Mueller obtained real evidence of a Prague trip he would have subpoenaed Mr. Cohen’s communications during the August 2016 time frame.
The supposed Cohen Prague trip has been pushed to reporters and government investigators by Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS, which paid Mr. Steele. Fusion has long-standing relationships with Washington’s powerful news outlets such as CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Mr. Simpson still believes Mr. Cohen went to Prague. He told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that Mr. Cohen may have traveled by yacht and a Russian’s plane.
Mr. Cohen has sued Fusion for libel.
The same McClatchy reporters in January authored another disputed story. It said the FBI is investigating whether millions of dollars in illegal Russian funds ended up in the National Rifle Associations’ political action committee (PAC). The NRA flatly denies this happened.
The story said the money was supposedly funneled by a Russian lawyer who is an NRA member and has ties to the Kremlin. The story strongly implied that the illegally happened by showing that the NRA raised far more money in 2016 than it did in the 2012 presidential race.
The Washington Times first reported on a detailed letter from the NRA to Congress. The letter said that an in-house examination showed that no foreign funds ended up in campaign donation fund.
There has been no independent press report to confirm the McClatchy story.
Mr. Simpson is also pushing the NRA-Russia narrative, telling the House committee that the Kremlin has “infiltrated” the gun rights group.
The McClatchy sources for both the Cohen and NRA stories are vaguely described as people familiar with the matter.