All of those indicted thus far by Robert Mueller’s special counsel have one thing in common – that they’re facing charges which have nothing to do with the counsel’s initial scope, uncovering and punishing alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. When Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller’s special counsel after the firing of James Comey, it authorized Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).”
Not a single person has been charged within those guidelines, including Michael Cohen, the latest to be in the spotlight following the announcement of his three-year-sentence. Cohen’s charges included campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and lying to Congress. The “lying to Congress” charge stems from statements Cohen made regarding the Trump Organization’s failed efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
If you listen to the media, you’d get the impression that Cohen’s charges are the “smoking gun” the collusion conspiracists have been looking for the past eighteen months:
- The soon-to-be-defunct Weekly Standard claimed that “The documents are, even for those skeptical of the left’s ‘collusion‘ narrative, deeply incriminating.”
- The Washington Post’s not-at-all-conservative columnist Jen Rubin argued that the mention of the single word “synergy” in Mueller’s description of Cohen’s relationship with Russia proves collusion.
- The Chicago Sun Times reported that “Collusion with Russia fans is possible, Trump fans. Deal with it.”
- CNN headlined an op-ed assuming guilt, “Sorry, President Trump, collusion IS a crime.”
But as already mentioned, Cohen’s charges had absolutely nothing to do with collusion. And as a fantastic analysis from Real Clear Investigation’s Paul Sperry documents, the charges against Cohen explicitly disprove the collusion narrative.
Charges Fail to Substantiate Collusion Narrative
The 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 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, and had resorted to sending the emails to a general press mailbox. Sources who have seen these additional emails point out that this omitted information undercuts the idea of a “back channel” and thus the special counsel’s collusion case.
The second page of the same document reportedly quotes an August 2017 letter from Cohen to the Senate Intelligence Committee where he writes Trump “was never in contact with anyone about this [Moscow Project] proposal other than me.” This is of note because Mueller does not dispute this statement as false (while other statements in the same letter are disputed as false by Mueller). Mueller also doesn’t dispute Cohen’s statement about how they “ultimately determined that the [Trump Tower] proposal was not feasible and never agreed to make a trip to Russia.”
Another Cohen Connection Proves (a Lack of) Collusion
Cohen’s connection to New York real estate developer Felix Sater, who promised he could fast-track real estate projects in Russia, proves that the Trump campaign had no special access to Russia.
Cohen’s emails and text messages indicate he failed to establish communications with the Russian leader’s spokesman.
In the end, neither Putin nor any Kremlin official was directly involved in the scuttled Moscow project, sources say. Moreover, neither Cohen nor Trump traveled to Moscow in support of the deal, as Sater had urged. No meetings with Russian government officials took place.
Cohen’s only Russian “connection” ended up occurring when he sent an email to a desk secretary in the spokesman’s office. There’s no indication he received a response.
And About That Dossier…
Adding another nail to the coffin of Christopher Steele’s credibility, the story from his dossier involving a Cohen trip to Prague still has yet to be proven.
Notably absent from the criminal-information document is any corroboration of the highly inflammatory, though oft-cited allegation made in the so-called Steele dossier, funded by the Clinton campaign, that Cohen visited Prague to clandestinely meet with Kremlin officials in August 2016 to arrange “deniable cash payments to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.”
Given many of Cohen’s recent negative statements about the President, Trump may want to reconsider his comments that he hires only “the best people,” but that’s irrelevant to the point here; that despite all of Cohen’s wrongdoing, none of it has anything to do with Russian collusion.