Nearly a year after their probe began, Democrats are not giving up on insinuating that Trump attorney Michael Cohen and former campaign volunteer Carter Page played spy games with the Russians.
In a new twist, one Democrat now is suggesting that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, owned multiple passports, identities and Social Security numbers. There has been no public proof of this.
Glenn Simpson, co-founder of the Fusion GPS investigative firm that produced the unverified Democrat-financed anti-Trump dossier, is suggesting that Mr. Cohen could have secretly ended up on a yacht in the Adriatic after socializing with a Russian in Long Island in August 2016. The dossier claimed he supposedly met with Russians in Prague that month. Mr. Cohen said the theory is baseless.
Neither the FBI nor the House and Senate committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election have confirmed the charges.
Both Trump associates have filed libel lawsuits. Mr. Cohen has sued Fusion GPS, which played middleman between the Democratic Party and former British spy and dossier writer Christopher Steele. Mr. Page has sued a media company.
But Democrats were able to regurgitate the charges, thanks to Mr. Simpson. Last week, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a transcript of his Nov. 14 closed-door testimony.
In his testimony, Mr. Simpson portrayed Mr. Cohen as a mob-tied businessman and Mr. Page as a sap for the Russians. Committee Democrats used Mr. Simpson as a focal point to again attack the two in an attempt to create a picture of Trump-Russian collusion.
Excluding Mr. Trump, no two Trump associates are trashed more by Mr. Steele and by his unknown Kremlin sources than Mr. Cohen and Mr. Page.
In a nutshell, the dossier accuses Mr. Cohen of secretly traveling to Prague to execute a cover-up of computer hacking by operatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The dossier accuses Mr. Page, an investor stationed in Moscow in the 2000s, of a number of felonies. He supposedly orchestrated the hacking of Democratic Party computers and negotiated a sanctions-lifting bribe with Kremlin people.
Again, both men say the charges are ridiculous.
The accusations have been hanging over Mr. Page since September 2016, when Mr. Simpson persuaded Yahoo News and then Mother Jones magazine to write about them. In January 2017, BuzzFeed posted all 35 pages of Mr. Steele’s dossier, including the Prague narrative. Mr. Cohen showed his passport to prove he has never been to the Eastern European city. He said he spent a chunk of that August in California visiting his son.
But Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the intelligence committee’s ranking Democrat, has continued to express faith in Mr. Steele. At a March hearing, he read some of the unverified felony charges into the record.
At the Nov. 14 session, Rep. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat, suggested that Mr. Cohen has multiple passports, aliases and Social Security numbers, according to the transcript.
“Just on Michael Cohen,” Mr. Swalwell said to Mr. Simpson. “Did you ever research whether Michael Cohen had any aliases or other names that he used? Did you ever find anything out about that?”
Mr. Simpson: A little bit. The possibility that he had two passports or used a different formulation of his name was something — I can’t remember — we asked around about or thought about trying to get information on, but ultimately did not.
Mr. Swalwell: Did you ever come across the name Michael Cohn, C-O-H-N, with links, common addresses but different Social Security numbers?
Mr. Simpson: I think my staff probably did come across stuff like that, but we didn’t make much of it. It looked like a typo.
Mr. Schiff, who has called Mr. Trump the worst president in modern history, took the bashing further.
“Michael Cohen, the president’s lawyer, and his background, and that he had a lot of connections to the former Soviet Union, and that he seemed to have associations with organized crime figures in New York and Florida, Russian organized crime figures,” Mr. Simpson told the California Democrat.
Mr. Schiff: And which figures were those?
Mr. Simpson: I was afraid you were going to ask me that. I can’t remember a lot of the names. There was Simon Garber, the taxi king. And I guess another guy’s name is Evgeny Freidman, who are people he was in the taxi business with.
Mr. Schiff and Mr. Simpson have not given up on the conspiracy theory that Mr. Cohen traveled to Prague in August 2016.
Mr. Schiff prodded Mr. Simpson to present his elaborate theory that Mr. Cohen may have left Long Island, New York, at the same time his daughter was visiting Europe.
Mr. Cohen has produced his passport and shown evidence of his trip to California that month. He has testified under oath to Congress that he did not visit Prague.
But Mr. Simpson said that is not enough to rebut Mr. Steele’s felony charge, which is based on unidentified Kremlin people.
“I would sit down with my lawyer and we would reconstruct my whereabouts, and we would look through credit card bills and airplane tickets and, you know, my phone records,” Mr. Simpson testified. “And there is many, many ways to account for your whereabouts in modern life if you want to. And I haven’t seen him put any of that stuff out. So I find that intriguing. I don’t know what Mr. Cohen has told you, but his public statements about his whereabouts I found unsatisfying.”
Mr. Simpson noted that several yachts were moored off Long Island.
“There were all these other yachts nearby and that, you know, there had been rumors of meetings between Trump people and Russians on yachts off Dubrovnik, [Croatia],” he testified.
The Washington Times asked Mr. Cohen to respond to Mr. Simpson. He said, “Mr. Simpson’s testimony about me is completely baseless.”
Mr. Simpson credited Sergei Millian with giving him insights into Mr. Cohen. Mr. Millian is a Belarus-born naturalized American citizen who headed what he called a U.S.-Russia chamber of commerce.
Trump people have portrayed Mr. Millian as a hanger-on eager to insert himself into the Trump Organization’s social and business world. They said he made false claims about brokering deals for the Trump Organization real estate empire.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Millian was an indirect source for Mr. Steele’s salacious charge of Mr. Trump and prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room in 2013.
Mr. Cohen told The Times, “I have never met Mr. Millian. He emailed me several times with various issues. In November 2016, I had enough of his attempts to insert himself into the narrative and demanded he cease contacting me.”
Mr. Cohen last year told ABC News, “I’ve never met the guy. I have spoken to him twice. The first time, he was proposing to do something. He’s in real estate. I told him we have no interest. Second time he called me, I asked him not to call me anymore.”
Saying he had had enough of Mr. Simpson’s smears, Mr. Cohen on Jan. 9 filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against Fusion GPS and Mr. Simpson.
“Even though the Dossier contained unverified allegations, [Fusion and Mr. Simpson] recklessly placed it beyond their control and allowed it to fall into the hands of media devoted to breaking news on the hottest subject of the day: the Trump candidacy,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants knew that these reports were not verified, and that they defamed Plaintiff on their face. Defendants could easily have removed the reports from the Dossier before they started peddling the Dossier to media and journalists in September and October 2016. They chose not to do so. Nor did they attempt to determine the veracity of these reports with Plaintiff himself.”
Deep unverified dirt
The dossier states that Mr. Cohen’s wife is of Russian descent and that her father is a leading property developer in Moscow.
Mr. Cohen’s lawsuit says his father-in-law is not a developer in Russia and has been to the country only once. His wife was born in Ukraine and immigrated to the U.S. 40 years ago.
Concerning Carter Page, an energy investor who says the dossier has ruined his business, Democrats again brought up his brief encounter with Victor Podobnyy, an undercover Russian U.N. diplomat who, unbeknownst to Mr. Page, turned out to be a spy.
Mr. Simpson said of Mr. Page: “And so, you know, I mean in terms of like things that have turned out to be accurate about the dossier, I mean like, OK, so this guy seems like a zero, but, in fact, you know, in espionage tradecraft, you know, you are not going to target, you know, someone with a good job and a stable family and a long work history, because they are going to tell you to get lost. But you are going to target someone who is greedy, lonely, ambitious. And he fit the picture.”
Mr. Page repeatedly has said he provided Mr. Podobnyy in 2013 a copy of a publicly sourced lesson plan for his students at New York University. Mr. Page has faced no charges.
Mr. Page, who then consulted for a Russian energy firm, said they met briefly over coffee three years before he joined the Trump campaign as a volunteer.
The Steele dossier says that, when Mr. Page made a trip to Moscow in July 2016 to deliver a public speech at the New Economic School, he met with Igor Sechin, the chief of Russia’s giant state-owned oil company. Mr. Steele said they discussed bribes for U.S. sanctions relief.
“I will never find a way to confirm whether he talked to Igor Sechin, but what was he doing in Moscow at this school meeting?” Mr. Simpson testified. “And was he on the schedule in advance? Couldn’t find much indication that this had been long announced in advance.”
Of Mr. Simpson’s testimony, Mr. Page said, “It’s a desperate smear job — as it has been from the very beginning.”
Mr. Schiff also has not given up on the Steele story about Mr. Trump being entertained by prostitutes in Moscow.
“The kompromat which has become so much a focus of any discussion of the dossier, are there any of the facts related to that, the salacious video that were not a part of the dossier or other like allegations that came to your attention?” he asked Mr. Simpson.
Mr. Schiff has used the dossier, almost all of which comes from Kremlin sources, to hurl accusations against Mr. Page from the investigation’s start.
When Mr. Simpson said Russians like to do things that impress Mr. Putin, Mr. Schiff said, “That sounds like a description of Carter Page.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said, according to Trump people, that Mr. Millian made false claims about brokering deals for Russian investors.
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