When news broke that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his 2016 meetings concerning the failed Trump Tower Moscow project, the chattering class instantly began talking about the failed Trump Tower Moscow project.
Of course that was news. But it turns out the Cohen plea agreement also made news in what it did not cover. Specifically, it spoke volumes — without saying a word — about a key allegation of the Trump dossier, the charge that Cohen traveled to Prague to arrange secret payments to Russian hackers attacking the Clinton campaign. The accusation is the heart of the collusion allegation, and Trump-Russia special counsel Robert Mueller’s deal with Cohen strongly suggests that prosecutors have not found evidence to support it. . . .
This is why Cohen’s Trump Tower Moscow plea agreement with Mueller is important for the dossier: The plea shows that Mueller closely scrutinized everything Cohen told Congress. And it has long been clear that Mueller and his team are not shy about charging Trump-Russia figures with making false statements. It’s also clear that Mueller found evidence that specific assertions in Cohen’s statements to Congress were false — the ones concerning Trump Tower Moscow — and that he charged Cohen with lying. So if Mueller had evidence that Cohen’s definitive denial of the Prague story, in the same document, was false, it seems reasonable to conclude that Mueller would have charged Cohen for it. Yet in the charges against Cohen, Mueller said absolutely nothing about Prague.
Last April, McClatchy published a blockbuster story with the headline “Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier.” The story was the subject of a lot of talk among Resistance types. But one notable thing about the McClatchy scoop was that other news organizations never duplicated it, as is common when one outlet breaks a big story. Now Mueller, with vastly more resources and investigative power than any news organization, hasn’t either.
For more than a year, a number of Trump-Russia investigators on Capitol Hill have maintained that none of the dossier’s substantive allegations are true. The new plea deal between Cohen and Mueller is more evidence to support that.
But the dossier’s only purpose was to get a special counsel appointed to go after Trump, and they got that.
For those interested in going deeper regarding special counsels and lying to Congress, I recommend Peter W. Morgan’s The Undefined Crime of Lying to Congress: Ethics Reform and the Rule of Law, 86 Northwestern U. L. Rev. 177 (1992). And here’s a New Yorker piece by Jeffrey Rosen. Excerpt: “Perjury traps have become a popular tactic among independent counsels: if they can’t prove the alleged crime they were appointed to investigate, they indict suspects for lying to investigators. But the traps are effective only because independent counsels have succeeded over the past few decades in expanding the lying laws far beyond their historical roots.”