Cohen lawyer rebuts Russia dossier allegations

Story highlights

  • The dossier explicitly accuses Cohen of being a key link between the Russian government and the Trump campaign
  • The detailed rebuttal comes as Cohen has emerged as a central figure in the Russia probes

Washington (CNN)The lawyer for a close ally of President Donald Trump fought back against some of the most explosive allegations included in a Russia dossier and argued that congressional investigators should be searching for the donors who paid for it.

In a detailed letter sent to members of the House intelligence committee earlier this month, Stephen Ryan, who represents Michael Cohen, a former Trump Organization executive who is now the President's personal attorney, said the dossier's allegations were unfounded.
The 35-page dossier, compiled by a former British intelligence officer working with a former investigative reporter, explicitly accuses Cohen of being a key link between the Russian government and the Trump campaign -- a charge he has repeatedly and flatly denied.
    "We have not uncovered a single document that would in any way corroborate the Dossier's allegations regarding Mr. Cohen, nor do we believe that any such document exists," Ryan wrote to Reps. Michael Conaway and Adam Schiff, the leaders of the House Russia probe, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNN.
    Ryan goes on to say that House investigators should "discern and publicly disclose the entity or entities that paid for the 35-page dossier."
    The New York Times first reported Cohen's rebuttal.
    Many denials from Trump and others -- including claims that they had absolutely no contact with Russian officials -- have turned out not to be true.

    Lawyer denies Cohen traveled to Prague

    In particular, the dossier includes an allegation that Cohen traveled to Prague last August to meet with Russian officials as part of an alleged effort to maintain an operation between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
    "Mr. Cohen has never traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, as evidenced by his US passport. He did not participate in meetings of any kind with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016," Ryan wrote in his letter to the committee.
    No evidence has emerged to support the claim Cohen traveled to Prague last August.
    However, the lack of a stamp on Cohen's passport, does not preclude the possibility that he entered the Czech Republic.
    The Czech Republic is part of the European Union, and EU laws allow residents and tourists to travel freely through more than two dozen EU countries without a passport. This arrangement, which establishes what's known as the Schengen Area, means someone could fly to one EU country and then travel to Prague without ever getting their passport stamped by Czech authorities.
    Cohen has said previously that he traveled last summer to Italy, which is in the European Union. His passport indicates he arrived in Italy on July 9 and departed on July 17, according to a BuzzFeed review of his passport stamps.
    The dossier alleged that Cohen went to Prague in late August 2016 or possibly early September to meet Russian officials. Cohen has pushed back on these still-unsubstantiated claims, saying that he was in California at the time. Earlier this year, he told The Atlantic he was in California from August 23 to 29, visiting the University of Southern California with his son.
    Officials at USC confirmed to The Atlantic that Cohen was on campus during that timeframe. However, Cohen's own geotagged tweets place him in New Jersey, on August 24 -- even though Cohen said his trip started on August 23. (Cohen later suggested he was in New Jersey to catch his flight to Los Angeles, tweeting, "you are aware that there is an airport in Newark?")

    Central figure in Russia probes

    Ryan's insistence that investigators uncover the political donors who paid for the dossier dovetails with an investigation by the Senate judiciary committee. Its staff grilled Glenn Simpson, whose firm compiled the dossier, for close to 10 hours last week, though Simpson, according to his lawyer, refused to disclose the names of his clients.
    The revealing of the detailed rebuttal comes as Cohen has emerged as a central figure in the Russia probes. In a separate statement and documents provided to the House intelligence committee, Cohen said he reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman for help building a Trump Tower in Moscow and also alerted Trump three times of his efforts before abandoning the project in January 2016.
    Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed receipt of Cohen's emailed request this week but said he never replied. Cohen said in a statement that the project was not related to Trump's campaign.
    "In late January 2016, I abandoned the Moscow proposal because I lost confidence that the prospective licensee would be able to obtain the real estate, financing and government approvals necessary to bring the proposal to fruition," Cohen said in his statement. "It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more."