- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2019

Hillary Clinton’s election-year opposition research team pushed the infamous Prague-Russia-Trump story before and after it first emerged in the 2016 dossier by Christopher Steele.

Two years later, the Prague tale has risen again, this time compliments of McClatchy news service, bringing with it familiar denials.

Here is how the Prague allegation has stuck around Washington for two years without any independent public evidence, feeding liberal suspicious of a Trump-Kremlin election plot:

SEE ALSO: Steele dossier excerpt

Mr. Steele accused then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen of secretly traveling to Prague in August 2016 to meet aides of Russian President Vladimir Putin and arrange hush payments for hackers who broke into Democratic Party computers.

When BuzzFeed posted the dossier in January 2017, Cohen denied he had ever made such a clandestine visit. He repeated those denials to Congress.

The story lay moribund until McClatchy revived the tale in two stories — first in April, asserting that there was evidence of Cohen in Prague. McClatchy said in a Dec. 27 story that Cohen’s phone pinged a cell tower near Prague and that Russians were overheard at some point discussing his trip.

Cohen, who now faces jail time for tax and campaign finance fraud, once again came forward to repeat his adamant denial.

There is nothing in Cohen’s criminal case file that indicates he has knowledge of Russian-Trump election collusion, much less that he visited Prague. There has been no independent report confirming either of McClatchy’s stories.

But what is clear is this: Fusion GPS, Mrs. Clinton’s election-year opposition research firm and Mr. Steele’s handler, has pushed the Prague story before and since Buzzfeed posted the dossier.

Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson has a big stake in portraying the dossier as true. He gained Democratic Party funding to hire Mr. Steele, arranged his meetings with Washington reporters and vouched for Mr. Steele as a stellar former British spy.

The Hill newspaper reported in August that Mr. Simpson met in December 2016 with then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, whose wife worked for Fusion as a Russia specialist on anti-Trump research. Mr. Simpson told Mr. Ohr that Cohen was the link between the campaign and the Kremlin and that the attorney had traveled to Prague.

Eleven months later, Mr. Simpson continued pitching the Prague-Cohen narrative in closed testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

By then, Cohen had shown his passport to reporters. It had no Czech Republic stamp. He also provided an itinerary for a trip he had taken to California that August.

But Mr. Simpson told the committee that Cohen needed to do more and suggested that the attorney had two passports.

“I don’t know what Mr. Cohen has told you, but his public statements about his whereabouts I found unsatisfying,” he said.

“If that allegation had been made about me, I would sit down with my lawyer and we would reconstruct my whereabouts, and we would look through credit card bills and airplane tickets and, you know, my phone records,” he testified. “And there is many, many ways to account for your whereabouts in modern life if you want to. And I haven’t seen him put any of that stuff out. So I find that intriguing.”

‘Preposterous conspiracy theories’

Under questioning by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, Mr. Simpson presented a scenario in which Cohen traveled from the Hamptons, perhaps on a private Russian plane, and could have ended up on a yacht in the Adriatic Sea.

“There is a very puzzling sequence of events that we spent a lot of time looking at,” Mr. Simpson testified, according to a transcript released later.

“There were all these yachts nearby and that, you know, there had been rumors of meetings between Trump people and Russians on yachts off Dubrovnik [Croatia],” he said.

Mr. Steele has never disclosed his source or sources for his Prague entries in the 17 memos that make up the anti-Trump dossier. His dossier cites as sources a number of unidentified Kremlin intelligence figures.

McClatchy’s Prague stories, written by Greg Gordon and Peter Stone, quote unidentified sources.

On MSNBC, Mr. Gordon said they relied on thirdhand sources and did not view direct evidence.

“I wish we had,” Mr. Gordon said, according to the website Mediaite. “We held out for a while for that and it came a time when we thought they had a crucial mass. It is a competitive business.

“Some of the sources have government sources and some of the sources are people who have told us that they have trusted intelligence-type sources that they get information from,” he said. “We don’t know the specifics, but we have used these sources on many subjects and they have been very accurate.”

Mr. Simpson’s Trump investigation didn’t end with the election. According to a 2017 FBI document, Daniel Jones, a former top aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, raised $50 million from wealthy liberal donors to continue the Trump hunt.

Two of the people he hired: Mr. Simpson and Mr. Steele.

Speculation is ripe that those two continue to feed the Prague story. Fusion GPS’s attorney has not returned messages to The Washington Times seeking comment.

A congressional official involved in the Trump-Russia probe told The Times that evidence of a Prague trip has never materialized from the FBI or any independent witness. Like other unverified dossier charges, Prague is un-disprovable because skeptics will say Cohen could have slipped FBI detection.

“It’s incredible how Glenn Simpson can get so many journalists to eagerly report his preposterous conspiracy theories,” the official said. “The fact that Simpson can so easily con these reporters, and that other reporters are unwilling to state plainly that these stories are transparently false, is an astounding testament to the corruption and bias of the press.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller brought a charge of lying to Congress against Cohen for misleading lawmakers about when candidate Trump ended failed talks with the Kremlin on building a hotel in Moscow. Cohen wasn’t charged with lying about his many denials on Prague or that he never witnessed election collusion.

After the Dec. 27 McClatchy story, Cohen tweeted, “I hear #Prague #CzechRepublic is beautiful in the summertime. I wouldn’t know as I have never been. #Mueller knows everything!”

Liberals have much invested in Prague. If true, the visit would prove election collusion. With the latest McClatchy story, liberals interrogated Cohen on Twitter.

A law professor asked him, “Quick follow up if I may. Have you ever been to any location within the Czech Republic? Asking for several hundred million friends.”

“NO,” Cohen answered.

“Lara,” a Twitter supporter, chimed in, “Can u guys leave him alone? He said no million times and you’re still bugging him with same question. He has told [Mueller] all he knows so why do u think he will now lie over Prague visit?”

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