Ever since the Steele dossier was released, many of its claims have been under dispute. However none of them have been more scrutinized than whether or not Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen was traveling to Prague during August 2016 to meet with representatives of Russian intelligence. Today, it's being reported by McClatchy, citing four unnamed sources, that a phone traced to Cohen "briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016."
While some in the media will likely cling to this report as gospel and some type of "smoking gun," others have been skeptical, noting how easy it could be to clone Cohen's phone for nefarious purposes.
According to the Steele dossier, the alleged meet up was for the purposes of "compris[ing] 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.”
McClatchy previously reported in April that two unidentified sources claimed special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence of Cohen's presence in Prague during the 2016 campaign.
Defending themselves vehemently, Cohen, Trump and others associated with the president all insisted that he had never even been to Prague once in his entire life. Here is a clip of Cohen stating "I've never been to Prague" earlier this year on Hannity. He further goes on to say that he allowed Trump to inspect his passport in order to corroborate his innocence.
4/ Of course, you can hear it straight from the horse's mouth- @MichaelCohen212 went on @seanhannity's show during the transition- just after @BuzzFeedBen published the dossier on @BuzzFeedNews- to deny the entire thing and ask for an apology. pic.twitter.com/UJd6wA8FzQ— Justin Hendrix (@justinhendrix) October 10, 2018
Lanny Davis, a former attorney to Cohen and his current adviser, vehemently denied even after Cohen was sentenced in his legal cases that Cohen ever went to Prague. Davis most recently commented on the allegations on Dec. 17.
“No, no Prague, ever, never,” Davis told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt.
Davis offered a similar comment to McClatchy, saying that Cohen “has said one million times he was never in Prague.”
“One million and one times. He’s never been to Prague. … He’s never been to the Czech Republic,” he told McClatchy this week.
Cohen also denied the dossier’s allegations about him during testimony to the House and Senate in 2017. But his guilty plea in the Mueller case did not include any reference to false statements about the dossier. -Daily Caller
This extremely firm and verbose denial has been the cornerstone of doubt and skepticism that has surrounded the dossier since then.
Also of interest, the Daily Mail raised the question of how easy it could be to clone a phone like Cohens, stating that "a Cohen adversary might have obtained the unique digital ID of his phone and put it on another," which the paper calls "a simple task for the technically inclined."
Back in April of this year, it was reported that the Mueller team had obtained evidence that Cohen was in fact in Prague. Also reportedly during that period, an Eastern European intelligence agency supposedly electronically surveilled a conversation in which a Russian had stated that Cohen was in Prague. Follow up on the April report has been spotty so far.
On August 21 Cohen pleaded guilty in New York to tax evasion, bank fraud and making an illegal campaign contribution to porn star Stormy Daniels, for which he was sentenced to three years in federal prison on December 12.
Notably, he has not been charged by the Special Counsel regarding the alleged Prague trip - which, according to the Dossier, was for the purposes of influencing the 2016 US election. Perhaps in the fullness of time the McClatchy report will be corroborated by more news outlets who can independently assess the evidence, however it seems odd that a "smoking gun" related to Mueller's original mandate wouldn't have seen the light of day by now assuming any of this is true.