Mueller May Already Have Proof Of Cohen’s Collusion With The Russians

Lost in all the hoopla over the raids on Michael Cohen, the ensuing media circus, and Cohen’s and Trump’s attempt to exert attorney-client privilege over many of the seized documents is the indication that Robert Mueller must be pretty close to having a rock-solid case of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

McClatchy reported on Friday that the Special Counsel has evidence that Michael Cohen was in Prague in the late summer of 2016, entering the Czech Republic through Germany. This report has yet to be corroborated by any other news source so it should be taken with a grain of salt at this point. But, assuming it is true, it would corroborate another important component of the Steele Dossier, which claimed that Cohen met with Russian representatives in the last week of August or the first week of September of 2016 in order to coordinate their attacks on Hillary Clinton.

According to the dossier, “the agenda [for those meetings] comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow’s secret liaison with the Trump team more generally…On payments, Ivanov’s associate said that the operatives involved had been paid by both Trump’s team and the Kremlin though their orders and loyalty lay with Ivanov and his successor/s.”

McClatchy reports that Cohen met with Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of a Russian social and cultural organization, in order to provide some cover for the meeting. But, in addition to Solodukhin, Konstantin Kosachev, a close ally of President Putin and a member of the Foreign Affairs committee of the Russian Parliament, also attended the meeting. According to a former Pentagon official, “While not a member of Putin’s innermost circle, [Kosachev] is one of the most influential Russian voices on foreign affairs. When Kosachev speaks, everyone knows he’s speaking for the Kremlin.”

Nancy Letourneau points out that it just so happens that Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin was in Prague at the very same time of this meeting. Two weeks ago, Nikulin was finally extradited to the US and entered a not guilty plea in San Francisco. Letourneau offers the conjecture that the extradition of Nikulin and the report that Mueller has evidence that Cohen actually was in Prague in late summer of 2016 may not be coincidence but directly related. If Nikulin has flipped and provided Mueller with direct evidence that corroborates Cohen’s meeting with the Russians, that would be clear evidence of collusion. If Nikulin has direct evidence of Trump team payments to Kremlin hackers, that would be irrefutable and probably traceable evidence of collusion.

Mueller probably had much of this evidence long before he passed the investigation of Cohen’s other financial crimes, unrelated to the Russia investigation, over to the US Attorney in New York. Cohen had already been under investigation for months before these raids and investigators already had received access to Cohen’s emails and perhaps even tapped his phones. And the high bar for obtaining a search warrant on a lawyer indicates a high and important degree of criminality. Felix Sater, Cohen and Trump’s long time associate and the man who told Cohen that he could get Russia to help Trump get elected, is apparently cooperating with Mueller and probably telling all about what he knows about Cohen’s contacts with the Russians, which could be considerable. Sater also has plenty of information about Cohen’s other financial crimes, of which there are surely plenty and which are clearly part of the referral that led to the raids on Cohen’s home and office. Those crimes extend well beyond Cohen’s involvement in threatening and silencing women for his various “clients” and extend back to his days in the taxi business and as a budding real estate investor.

Mueller obviously had plenty of information about Paul Manafort’s interactions with Oleg Deripaska during his brief tenure as Trump’s campaign chairman, including his offer to provide briefings and use his position to make Deripaska whole as well as the specific briefing given to one of Deripaska’s henchman. Similarly, Mueller had plenty of detailed information about Papadopoulos’ contacts with the Russians before he charged him and got him to flip.

It is my belief that Mueller is taking the same tack with Cohen as he has done with Manafort. He clearly knows the outline of their collusion with the Russians and probably has more detail about that then we can imagine. But he is using their financial crimes as leverage to potentially get them to flip and become the most damaging evidence in a conspiracy trial beyond a clear paper trail, namely a direct witness. The advantage of this approach is that it allows Mueller to pressure these potential flippers without exposing the depth of his knowledge of the overall conspiracy to the other conspirators.

The NY Times reports that Trump is far more concerned about this Cohen investigation than the Mueller investigation. That hardly seems surprising. At this point, Trump knows that, whatever Mueller ends up producing, the chances of his being impeached are virtually nil even if Democrats win the House and the Senate in the fall. It’s the threat to Trump’s other job as President of the Trump Organization that really worries Trump.

As Adam Davidson writes in the New Yorker, “I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality.” Trump and his family have done all sorts of shady deals with all sorts of shady characters all over the world. Cohen apparently has enough information about those deals and others to destroy Trump’s personal life, if that’s possible, and even Trump’s family. More importantly, it threatens to destroy Trump’s pride and glory, his attempt to impress and outdo his father, a thing so precious to him that he wouldn’t even give it up even when he became President, namely the Trump Organization. For nearly 40 years, he has managed to keep the business going despite his continual failures. But Cohen could kill the business once and for all and prove Trump the failure he always feared he would be.

Originally published at on April 17, 2018.



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