The other day, Dan and I debunked the oft-cited myth that it was a member of the Trump campaign (George Papadopolous) promising dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians that sparked the FBI’s secretive counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. As we argued, the case that it was British spy Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump dossier that started this mess is overwhelming.
That is damning in light of the fact that the dossier was unsubstantiated and made wild claims that should’ve been red flags to law enforcement. The media certainly wished the dossier was true, but the most egregious “salacious and unverified” claims all turned out to be fantasy.
Michael Cohen Prague Visit
The dossier alleges that Michael Cohen visited Prague to meet Kremlin insiders. Steele writes in the dossier, sourcing an alleged “Kremlin insider,” that “COHEN now was heavily engaged in a cover-up and damage limitation operation in the attempt to prevent the full details of TRUMP’s relationship with Russia being exposed. In pursuit of this aim, COHEN had met secretly with several Russian Presidential Administration (PA) Legal Department officials in an EU country in August 2016.” A dossier entry dated the following day clarifies that Cohen’s aforementioned meetings with Russian officials were in Prague.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Greg Miller said during a book interview that sources at the FBI and CIA don’t believe that the Prague incident ever happened. Miller said that Post reporters “literally spent weeks and months trying to run down” leads from the dossier and that they “sent reporters through every hotel in Prague, through all over the place, just to try to figure out if he was ever there, and came away empty.”
Another dossier claim related to Cohen’s visit to Prague is that he discussed how to make deniable cash payments to the Russians allegedly responsible for hacking the DNC’s servers during the 2016 election, but it’s long been doubtful that the Russians were even responsible, with the evidence suggesting an internal leak. The DNC didn’t even allow the FBI access to examine their servers.
The charges Cohen faced from Mueller disprove the collusion narrative. In particular, charges stemming from Cohen’s false statements about a Russian Trump Tower project prove that the Trump campaign had no connection to the Russian government. As Real Clear Investigation’s Paul Sperry notes:
On page 7 of the statement of criminal information filed against Cohen, Mueller mentions that Cohen tried to email Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office on Jan. 14, 2016, and again on Jan. 16, 2016. But Mueller, who personally signed the document, omitted the fact that Cohen did not have any direct points of contact at the Kremlin.
A viral report from McClatchy DC last December claimed that Cohen’s cell phone was detected near Prague in 2016, but no other publication corroborated or verified the story. McClatchy’s case was paper thin regardless, only arguing that Cohen’s phone ” briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area.” If Cohen were in Prague, his cell phone would’ve been detectable for more than a “brief” moment of time. The term “Prague area” seems deliberately vague, too.
Regardless, Mueller couldn’t find any evidence to substantiate the claims either.
The Pee Tape
A June 20, 2016 memo in the dossier alleges Kremlin operatives have blackmail on Trump in the form of video footage of him with prostitutes in a Ritz Carlton hotel room in 2013. Steele claims one of his sources says the video shows some of the prostitutes performing a “golden showers” act on Trump.
The dossier’s source for this claim is “Source D,” who was identified as Sergei Millian. Millian has never corroborated the claim, and the last post on his personal twitter account is a retweet from last year denying the existence of the pee tape. As was admitted by Steele in David Corn and Michael Isikoff’s book “Russian Roulette,” even he doubted the pee tape claim, saying it was “fifty-fifty” that the story is true (but that didn’t stop him from including it in his dossier).
Trump was in Russia in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant after billionaire Aras Agalarov paid Trump to host it in Moscow that year. The timeframe for the golden showers incident to have occurred would’ve been slim because in an interview with The Washington Post, Agalarov’s publicist Rob Goldstone said he was with Trump for 31 out of the 36 hours he was in Moscow. Trump landed in Moscow at 3pm on a Friday and left at around 3am on Sunday morning.
Michael Cohen, even after turning on Trump to publicly blast him as a racist, cheater, misogynist, etc. in front of Congress, still denied the “golden showers” incident from the dossier.
Meanwhile, Tom Arnold’s VICE show “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes” has made no progress on the matter.
Carter Page and the Impossible Deal
In a memo dated July 19th, 2016 Steele focused on Trump’s advisor Carter Page, asserting that he held secret meetings in Moscow with Russian officials during a trip he took as a campaign adviser. In those meetings, Page supposedly learned that the Russian government had damaging information on both Clinton and Trump, which a Kremlin official said Trump should “bear in mind in his dealings with them.” He was also allegedly offered a 19% stake in a Russian oil company (Rosneft) if Trump would lift Russian sanctions—if he became president. As Forbes’ Paul Roderick Gregory quips, “This story is utter nonsense, not worthy of a wacky conspiracy theory of an alien invasion. As he notes:
To offer Trump either the entirety of, or a brokerage commission on, the market value of 19.5% of Rosneft shares—even a 6 percent commission on $12 billion worth of Rosneft shares would amount to an astonishing $720 million—would deplete the cash that Putin desperately needed for military spending and budget deficits, all in return for a promise to lift sanctions if—and what a big “if”—Trump were elected. Rosneft, as a public company, would have to conceal that the U.S. president was a party to this major transaction.
If Page were awarded a 19% stake in Rosneft, it would make him a wealthier man then Donald Trump (based on the company’s market value exceeding $40 billion). Additionally, since the Russian government owns 50% of Rosneft, we would have to believe they were willing to give up controlling interest in their company, which is extremely unlikely.
But more to the point, Trump has only imposed new sanctions on Russia. In one case back in April of last year, Trump imposed more new sanctions following the indictments of 13 Russians for “malicious cyber activities” earlier in March. Russia’s stock market dropped 11% on the news. Shares of the Russian aluminum giant Rusal (which is the world’s second-largest aluminum company) tanked 40% on the news.
Carter Page has since been charged with nothing.