Mueller Would Not Have Needed a Foreign Intelligence Agency to Geolocate Michael Cohen’s Phone

The same McClatchy team that has long been chasing the Steele dossier allegation that Michael Cohen was in Prague in (the first two reports said) August or maybe (the last report said) September has a new story reporting two new details about the allegation, sourced to four people reporting anonymously and secondhand about what “foreign intelligence connections” told them.

I’ll get to the substance of the report in a second, but first I want to point to a claim they make.

If the foreign intelligence intercepts are accurate, the big questions now are whether Cohen has acknowledged to investigators that a meeting in Prague occurred, informed them what transpired and revealed what, if anything, he told Trump about it.

It’s a remarkable claim from reporters trying to cover a part of the Russian investigation (but who have covered very little aside from the Cohen in Prague allegation). Because no, the big questions are not and have not been for some time whether Cohen told investigators of this.

That’s true, in part, because if one of these claims — that Cohen’s phone showed up near Prague in August or maybe September — is true, then Mueller would have had this since April at the latest, and probably significantly earlier. Here’s the allegation:

A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.

Weirdly, the reporters writing up this story show no awareness of whether Mueller has obtained Cohen’s records.

Mueller’s investigators, some of whom have met with Steele, likely also pursued Cohen’s cell phone records. It would be a common early step in such an investigation for a prosecutor to obtain a court warrant for all U.S. and foreign phone company records of key subjects, even those dating back more than 18 months.

Cohen is likely to be one of the five people who had the information from their AT&T phones (or a likely comparable number who probably had information their Verizon phones) obtained back on March 9 in the wake of the Rick Gates plea. In any case, we know that the FBI seized a whole slew of Cohen’s phones on April 9 and were able to fully exploit all of them save an old Blackberry.

So we don’t have to rely on extrapolating from what are often common first steps, because we know that Mueller has already obtained Cohen’s actual phones (to say nothing of his phone records).

If any of Cohen’s phones were in the vicinity of Prague in 2016 — whether August or maybe September — Mueller knew about it when he told Judge William Pauley that,

Cohen provided the SCO with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with Company executives during the campaign.

That’s the one description of Cohen’s cooperation that might incorporate covering up for Manafort in August or maybe September 2016. Perhaps a Prague meeting is included in that bullet — as I noted in April, Cohen’s then lawyer avoided addressing the issue (though Lanny Davis, working as a flack yet being employed as a lawyer, claimed repeatedly after April that Cohen had not been in Prague).

If it was, however, Mueller nevertheless chose to focus on Cohen’s lies about a Trump Tower deal in Cohen’s allocution.

The defendant lied to Congress about a business project (the “Moscow Project”) that he worked on during the 2016 presidential campaign, while he served as Executive Vice President at a Manhattan-based real estate company (the “Company”) and as Special Counsel to the owner of the Company (“Individual 1”).

Nor was a Prague meeting described to be among the things that Cohen lied about at his first proffer session so as to avoid conflicting with lies he told Congress (and if Cohen did go to Prague, he would have lied to Congress about that).

This initial meeting with the SCO, on August 7, 2018, was set up at Cohen’s request. In that meeting, Cohen voluntarily provided information relevant to other aspects of the SCO’s ongoing investigation, but when asked questions about the Moscow Project, Cohen provided false answers in what he later explained was an effort not to contradict his congressional testimony.

And Mueller didn’t include Cohen’s claims about Prague in a footnote describing Cohen’s other lies about contacts with Russians.

The defendant, without prompting by the SCO, also corrected other false and misleading statements that he had made concerning his outreach to and contacts with Russian officials during the course of the campaign. For example, in a radio interview in September 2015, the defendant suggested that Individual 1 meet with the President of Russia in New York City during his visit for the United Nations General Assembly. When asked previously about these events, the defendant claimed his public comments had been spontaneous and had not been discussed within the campaign or the Company. During his proffer sessions, the defendant admitted that this account was false and that he had in fact conferred with Individual 1 about contacting the Russian government before reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest in such a meeting. The meeting ultimately did not take place.

None of that rules out the McClatchy report that Cohen was in Prague. If Cohen was in Prague, Mueller might well want to keep that secret.

But thus far, Mueller seems to think that Cohen’s role in brokering a Trump Tower deal (including, per BuzzFeed’s reporting, with a banker tied to GRU, the intelligence agency that carried out the election year operation) was a more important lie than anything that got reported in the Steele dossier.

All of which is to say that I still stand by this post, in which I argue that it’s high time for reporters to stop focusing primarily on whether details of the Steele dossier have proven true (particularly if that’s all you do on the Russian investigation, as it substantially is with these reporters), and instead look to laying out the implications of the conspiracy that Mueller has already provided corroboration of.

There is growing evidence that Trump conspired with Russians in 2016. That evidence, however, comes increasingly from Mueller, not from Christopher Steele.

As I disclosed in July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post

209 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    It’s probably because it’s so easy to show that Cohen’s claim about his passport is bull (if you’ve ever heard of the Schengen zone – which a lot of people haven’t), and that people can understand the phone stuff more easily than a lot of the other information.

    • David K. Peers says:

      You still have to enter the EU and regardless of the Schengen Zone, the point of entry would be in your passport.

      Hope that helps.

  2. flounder2 says:

    This is a useful way of saying this article could have been like two paragraphs long.
    I might look at this article as reporting info that the McClatchy Team got from foreign intelligence (or adjacent to foreign intelligence), with the large amount of Mueller hand-waving then stapled on to article (at insistence of an editor perhaps) to provide more of a hook or context. And to provide a small defense of said original reporting, if your sources are foreign intelligence, that is going to be the basis of your reporting, and you might leave the “what has Mueller found and what story does that tell re: a conspiracy” to someone who is better at that.

  3. Trip says:

    I’m skeptical on this reporting as well. I’m not as averse to the dossier as a lot of people here. But the scoop here is so limited, and it doesn’t help by making the source(s) of it so vague. That, coupled with the lack of confirmation from absolutely every other news outlet is problematic for me. Why would these reporters be the chosen outlet to share with, if they aren’t deeply invested in chasing down the rest of the story down writ large? It could be true, but right now, it feels like the Guardian piece on Julian Assange getting private meetings with Manafort.

    • Wajim says:

      Yes, it does seem a useful distraction from what is in somewhat plain view (via Mueller, so far), doesn’t it?

  4. BobCon says:

    I agree it’s likely that any Cohen trip to Prague, if it happened, was a campaign sideshow because Cohen’s role in the campaign was almost certain secondary.

    I’m curious why Cohen seems to have been kept mostly in the Trump business silo while another set of goofs were in the Russian campaign interference silo – if that was Trump’s idea, or the way the Russians wanted to operate. Who knows, maybe it was even Manafort’s plan. Somebody had the common sense not to let many (if any) people outside of the family get involved very much in the two scams at the same time.

    • chicago_bunny says:

      Cohen wasn’t strictly in the Trump business silo – he also was on the RNC Finance Leadership Team.  I’m not sure what to make of that particular data point, but it does put him into the political mix.

  5. Rusharuse says:

    Mueller (wearing a Stormy mask) spanking Trumps pale, pimply arse with a verified copy of le dossier . . THAT gets me where I wanna go!

  6. pseudonymous in nc says:

    I’ve already said my piece on the Cohen/Prague stuff.

    But: it might be worth a follow-up post collating the parts of the 2016 timeline that the talking indictments / statements of offense leave blank or are most succinct in describing. That doesn’t mean there are Big Things that fill in the blanks, but it feels as if people are still trying to posit stuff from Steele’s work — other than wanting the salacious stuff to be true — because Mueller hasn’t said much about August-November other than the Cohen/AMI payoffs and the online and US ground activities of the Internet Research Agency.

    • emptywheel says:

      Fair suggestion (though remind me which post that is and I’ll dig up your past comments, bc you’ve been great on this topic).

      I’ve been thinking of doing another version of my 6-part series, updated for what we know now.

      I think we’ll get more of the later details if and when Stone gets indicted.

      • Eureka says:

        I think we’ll get more of the later details if and when Stone gets indicted.

        It seems like the heart of the story of what they all did to our country lies here (and in related testimonies).  Meaning the part where most Americans go, “OMG those fuckers!” and the betrayal really sinks in.  I hope the narrative is rich and full.

      • Desider says:

        Cohen could have been in Carlsbad (a rather Russian spa town near the Czech border) or someine else could have had one of his burner phones, or it could just be a mistake in the Steele Dossier. Doesnt matter much for the Russian collusion

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As EW points out, McClatchy makes a whole story from a morsel that’s not part of the main course. A little work and they would have found that out. They’re quite capable of it, so why the distraction. Filler or distraction seem inadequate explanations.

    Is the bigger picture too upsetting for the establishment to take in or simply a bridge too far until someone else has ferried the investigative troops across the river of crime.

    • BobCon says:

      In the case of McClatchy, it may simply be a case of a sunk cost issue – a set of reporters and editors being committed to a story and unwilling to let it go due to the amount of time already invested.

      I think the fascination it has for some readers is partly due to a lot of lingering dislike of Cohen and an urge to score some points in rebuttal of his “PROVE IT!” attitude in 2016-17. I don’t think many people have yet figured out how much Trump and his type (Roger Stone, Sarah Sanders, Giuliani, etc.) benefit from belligerent displays designed to create distractions.

  8. Michael K says:

    Both of these things can be true:

    1) Efforts to prove (or dis-prove) specific [raw intelligence] claims in the Steele dossier are largely irrelevant to understanding the precise extent of conspiracies that occurred between Trump’s circle and Russia.

    2) Proving claims in the dossier is extremely relevant from a public opinion perspective because Trump’s base is heavily invested in the narrative that the dossier is “phony” and was paid for by Hillary Clinton and represents the origin of a Deep State Witch Hunt[TM] against a certain Very Stable Genius.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      By all means, then, let Trump choose the narrative.  It will also allow the MSM to burn up the airwaves with more he said, she said “coverage.”

      The problem I see with your argument is that Trump does not follow his own game plan.  He drops a busted argument faster than McDonald’s drops a commercial that doesn’t sell hamburgers.  Regardless of what he’s invested in it, he will pull another one out of his ass and use it.

      Inconsistencies, facts, logic, persuasiveness mean nothing to him.  Only distraction for his base (and his ego) is important.  Attacking only those arguments Trump has “invested heavily in” would be ineffectively playing Trump’s game.  It is throwing him into his own brier patch.

  9. Avattoir says:

    Rep Beadyeye Rasslincoach, R-Ohio: Mister Cohen, why should th’ American People b’lieve anything that comes out of your lying mouth when we know, from reports published in the media, we KNOW you were in Prawg, in the former comminist state of Checkoslovenia, in a secret meeting with notorious company involved in some nefarious business deal, for all we know plotting the downfall of President Trump, plotting against th’ American people, that very summer? An’ I remind you, sir, yer under oath, an’ , no, I yam not about to let this sham of a hearing continue without getting a straight answer.
    Cohen: No, that’s not–
    Rep. Rasslincoach: Answer the question, yes or no, it’s a simple enough question, Mister Cohen, for a person of your talents and persuasion, th’ American people have a right to know.
    Cohen: That’ what I–
    Rep. Rasslincoach: Immaddress the chair now, this farce of a hearing has gone on long enough and th’ American people demand an end to it, Mueller’s outta control.

    • BobCon says:

      Cohen: Well, I happen to remember talking to David Pecker about you one time and…

      Rep. Wrasslincoach: Well! That’s enough for today! My you look handsome Mr. Cohen! Have you lost weight? How’s the wife and kids? Guess we’ve run out of time…

      Rep. Nadler: Actually, we can go all evening if we need to, and we can subpoena Mr. Pecker if necessary.

      Rep. Wrasslincoach: Hey look over there, it’s, uh, Kid Rock! And Victoria Jackson! Here to, um, shatter your liberal bubbles…  [Runs for exit, pulls fire alarm]

  10. Ken Haylock says:

    Surely _nothing_ Steele produced is evidence, in the sense that you could use it to secure a conviction in court, it’s raw unprocessed information dumped on him by people he trusts to varying degrees, and some of whom may have been bumped off shortly after the dossier became public, but it does matter if it is accurate or not, because of the vast conspiracy (conspiracies plural) it describes. I suspect that rather like the pig and the PM in that episode of Black Mirror, nobody actually wants to see the pee pee tape, even if they are certain right now that they do, but if the allegations in the dossier can be stood up one by one with proper evidence, that’s a scandal for this or any other century! And I suggest that the more of them stand up, the greater the likelihood that the remainder stand up as well…

  11. jf-fl says:

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding EW’s inference, but obtaining cohen’s cell phones would not tell Mueller where he was two 2 years ago. Cell phone pings are not stored on phones more than a couple of days, tops… he’d have to get that from the cell providers.

    I’m actually surprised you’re trying to make the claim that cell phone pings wouldn’t matter, or it wouldn’t matter if cohen testifed about a possible prague meetings bc mueller might likely already have known cohen’s physical location. That’s a ridiculous claim, embarassing on your part which I’m shocked to say. Why? Cell phone records can tell you where somebody was… but not what they were doing. Testimony gives you more stuff to corroborate (or not), which is why both Cohen’s testimony [if it occurred] would matter… also it’s why the steele dossier remains important for many reasons. Your continual arguments against the value of other people’s reporting or sources just makes me discount the average EW story a bit more. Being wrong here doesn’t make mcclatckhy (sic) right of course, but you’re wrong in many ways here and for either inexplicable or very silly reasons.

    Please do better, this is perhaps your worst article ever. Granted you are better than most reporters at least for analysis, but still…. Sad.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Sad that you missed the reference to having records for the cellphones reliably tied to Cohen.

      Focusing on the Steele dossier after all this time is like focusing on RICO: when you have hard evidence for the underlying crimes, the additional umbrella crime – which is dependent on having it – is irrelevant and a distraction to the case in chief.

    • emptywheel says:

      Let me simplify it so you understand it.

      If Mueller had probable cause to get every single phone Cohen owns, he already had probable cause to get the phone records from his main 2016 phone (and had already gotten his email, as well).

      Let me simplify still further. Getting the cell location metadata from his provider is just an effort to parallel construct what the NSA has via EO 12333 collection.

      I can go on. And on. And on.

      But thanks for your so-pleasant assistance.

      • Avattoir says:

        OTOH at least you’ve got some indication of a benchmark against which to measure your BEST work:

        “perhaps your worst article ever”

        So now you could, if you chose, put up a little informal survey for each thread, right after your regular blurb on being a potential witness, asking for input on whether or not the given post is:

        __ beneath even that

        __ about on par with that

        __ better than that, FCOL

        __ “Be best”

        __ actually some of your best work

        __ omg, best thing on internet ever

        • r helder says:

          back in the old fdl valerie plame days i lurked here for the inspired insight.  it’s only gotten better.

          beyond that, the gentle humor on this website — coupled with bmaz’ bulldog defense against trolls and drones — makes this a daily visitation.  the hours i spend here would be ill spent doing something else

      • Anne says:

        Having worked in the industry, I can explain cell phone questions.  There is no reason for a phone to keep any location information, or any call information (except for what the user wants to see).  AT&T must know in real time where the phone is:  in this case, only which country and which provider in that country.  The provider in the Czech Republic must know in which cell the phone is located.  BUT all this is real-time information that providers don’t keep.  The information to be kept is chargeable stuff like calls and texts, but only for a time (e.g. 3 months) specified by the relevant PUC.  UNLESS the provider has been asked to track the phone!  If Mueller knows anything about the whereabouts of this phone in 2016, that means that it was already being tracked, presumably along with all the other phones associated with the campaign. And it means they had asked European providers to do the same.   Tracking isn’t the same as intercepting (recording calls), but all providers can do that, too.

        If it wasn’t being tracked in 2016, only the NSA can help.  If the NSA was vacuuming up all GSM metadata between the US and Europe (in an AT&T gateway), the data wouldn’t identify a precise location in the Czech Republic, unless Cohen made calls (and maybe not; don’t remember details of the SS7 protocol).  If it was a burner phone Mueller didn’t know about until they seized all Cohen’s phones, NSA would have to search their 2016 metadata for anything they could find.  And by the way, burner phones were made illegal very quickly in Italy where I was working.  The US is way behind.

        • bmaz says:

          My experience is that, with certain carriers,there is a 90 day limit on certain records, but far longer than that if you plumb deeply. They “want” you to think it is all over after 90 days, but that is nowhere near true universally. And that has nothing to do with what the NSA may, or may not, have.

        • Tech Support says:

          BUT all this is real-time information that providers don’t keep.

          Here’s the thing. Even if all your technical points about how cell tower data is used and how long records are retained are 100% accurate, the general premise that intelligence data is not required still holds true. The reason being that modern smartphones collect reams of data and are leaky as hell with that information.

          As one example, consider the data generated by location services. Unless you’re somebody who always leaves location services off or only turns them on to accomplish specific purposes (a tough habit for even the tech-woke and paranoid among us) then Google has a fat ole trail of breadcrumbs on you.

          That doesn’t mean that this example would be THE route that could be used by the Mueller investigation, but Marcy’s whole point about parallel constructions is that if you already have the data (from intelligence sources that can’t be used in court proceedings) then there are a host of routes you might be able to exploit in order to reverse-engineer admissible access to the same evidence.


    • bmaz says:

      Hi there jf-fl troll. I read through your previous 38 or so comments. And you are nothing short of a troll. That does not work here. Don’t come back with that junk.

  12. Michael says:

    “Cell phone records can tell you where somebody was” …

    No. Cell phone records can tell you where a cell phone was.

    • DannyD says:

      I was thinking something along those lines too…

      What if Cohen loaned his phone to Manafort, Page, or one of the other stooges thinking that it would be protected by some type of ”privilage”?  Or better yet, one of those stooges brought it with them, so that Trump could talk directly to Putin by simply dialing his lawyer’s number?

      Just saying, it’s possible that both Cohen’s statements and the phone pings are true at the same time.

  13. Zirc says:

    Cell phone pings would tell you where a phone was not necessarily where a particular person is. Phones can be loaned/borrowed or even stolen.  Which is all to say that even if the McClatchy folks are on to something, they haven’t necessarily pinpointed Cohen’s location for that period.


  14. Joe F says:

    Honestly, I think this could have come from Mueller and the foreign intel is just a smoke screen. I don’t believe that Mueller has been leak free, he has just chosen to leak strategically to counter Trump PR assault. How do you think the Times got the Trump Tower email thread? If Cohen was there or similar too, it would be the most concrete evidence of a conspiracy to date. Why now leak? Maybe as a precursor of things to come very soon and now the Republican vandals in the House majority are gone, Mueller can begin to reveal more without interference. I see Rudy already in damage control. Don’t know if it’s true, but if so, it is a bombshell

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If Mueller is leaking now, it would be unexpected and highly inconsistent, new behavior.  Moreover, his team’s game plan evolves around not leaking.  The MSM seems to have more trouble with that non-information than does team Trump.

    • Avattoir says:

      I’ve been thinking the first leak to the public press on the Trump Tower Light Treason was actually by Junior, trying to leap out in front of an anticipated leak.

      Your little reddit-esque bit on ‘selective leakage out of the Mueller OSC’ brings to mind that old adage: You can’t spell “groundless speculation” without “specious”.

  15. RisingDown says:

    Given the McClatchy dossier reporting has lacked other substantial verification all along, I appreciate Marcy’s continued skepticism of it. I’m far more likely to entertain a notion that trolls (who cares if Russian or not) are the source of this “new” intel re: cell tower pings.

    Another return of the dossier to the limelight is a win for anyone wishing to muddy the waters of clear, documented crimes that have in fact been committed and for which there can be no denial.

    Until such time as hard corroboration of The Steele work has come out, aren’t we all better served to consider it a distraction? Plenty of real crimes have been sussed out by SCO and other offices so far. I appreciate that this blog chooses to focus on what’s demonstrable over what’s conjecture, no matter it’s appeal.

    • Erica says:

      I believe this is work of the Russians! Consider this too.. I believe the Russians leaked the letter of intent because trump wasn’t moving fast enough in keeping his end of the deal. They released the letter of intent, the next day the US Treasury announces plan to drop sanctions involving the guy Manafort owes money to and Trump abruptly announces Syria withdrawal. The Russians are back on with helping Trump and now Prague comes back to light!! None of this is a coincidence. Michael Cohen also retweeted a tweet that asked if he was ever in the Czech Republic at any time, he anwsered NO! And he doesn’t have a reason to lie now unless he is still protecting trump undercover

    • koolmoe says:

      From this general group/stance perspective, agreed the dossier is overall meaningless at this point and far from what needs to be the focus.

      But for the rabid supporters, it’s their ‘ace’ in if they can fully disqualify it, that means the whole SP and investigation is based on a lie and should be entirely thrown out. It’s an insane hook to hang a hat on…like…all the evidence collected and indictments set so far are meaningless, because the dossier may be flawed?


      • Tech Support says:

        Obsessing about the Steele dossier isn’t a one-sided affair. The disclosure/publishing of a real pee tape would provide buckets of ghoulish, rubbernecking schadenfreude for many Trump haters. A bunch of weird emotional investment on both sides.

  16. Jockobadger says:

    Thanks EW.  I think it’s a great piece – helps me stay informed (try to, anyway.)

    How did the Times get that email thread?

  17. Frank Probst says:

    Just for argument’s sake, let’s say that Cohen WAS in Prague, and Mueller knows it. Does it create any legal/ethical problems for the Mueller team if they know that Cohen is now publicly lying about it, given that he’s a cooperating witness?

    • RisingDown says:

      Not an attorney, so I have no value to add to your question in principle. I bet other folks here can!

      Yet, your logic belies why I think this Prague intrigue could simply be trolling… it would seem to discredit SCO’s work, if true. At a minimum it would discredit Cohen.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      What’s necessary to understand this is the fine distinction between a criminal prosecution for some kind of espionage/foreign influence case and a counter-intelligence operation aimed at the same issue. The counter-intelligence operation may very well require someone like Cohen to lie. IMHO, this only gets interesting if Cohen lied to Mueller. He might be lying to the rest of us for reasons which don’t impinge on Mueller.

      • Fran of the North says:

        And his attorney specifically refers to Prague only. The confines of the city fits into a circle with a 5 mile radius.

  18. lawtalkinguy says:

    I agree that from a substantive perspective, the veracity of anything in the dossier is irrelevant.  There is concrete evidence of collusion independent of anything contained in the dossier.  But I think the focus on the dossier in general, and the Prague allegation specifically, is understandable for a few reasons.

    First, the dossier is what Trump, rightly or wrongly, is claiming started the investigation.  He believes that discrediting it discredits the investigation.  Obviously it does not, but that is his claim.  The more confirmed allegations, the better to push back on that argument, realizing of course that neither Trump or his base will be swayed by evidence.  But there are people out there who it may help convince.

    Second, many of the allegations in the dossier probably cannot be definitively confirmed or disproved.  Whether Cohen traveled to Prague is one fact that there should be evidence for one way or the other.  He and Trump unequivocally denied it.  Showing that denial false would I think be the most damaging revelation to date.

    Third, and I say this only partially facetiously, we want to believe the pee tape is real.  I am past believing that the tape would affect even with his evangelical base, but many people do believe that the pee tape would be the final straw.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah. Sure. And I am going to maintain that the “dossier” is the most irrelevant and overhyped pile of red herring shit in the history of man. And I am actually being kind when I say that.

      • wesmorgan1 says:

        You should read Lawfare’s December 2018 “retrospective” on the Steele dossier.

        Here are the money quotes from that analysis:

        The dossier is actually a series of reports—16 in all—that total 35 pages. Written in 2016, the dossier is a collection of raw intelligence. Steele neither evaluated nor synthesized the intelligence. He neither made nor rendered bottom-line judgments. The dossier is, quite simply and by design, raw reporting, not a finished intelligence product.

        Steele has never claimed that the dossier is definitive in any way – so there’s a LOT of leeway in evaluating any specific details, such as “August or September” vs. “mid-July”.

        These materials buttress some of Steele’s reporting, both specifically and thematically. The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven.
        But much of the reporting simply remains uncorroborated, at least by the yardstick we are using.

        There’s a huge difference between “uncorroborated” and “irrelevant and overhyped pile of red herring”, especially since EVERY tidbit given began as “uncorroborated”.  The key point to date is that many of its points HAVE been confirmed, while none have been conclusively disproven.

        The problem with the Steele dossier lies with those who argue that it is definitive at face value; at best, it’s a pile of leads that should be pursued.

        • bmaz says:

          Hi Wes. Yes, I read that Lawfare  piece the first day it was posted (and think it right in many regards, and wrong in a few).

          Thanks. I believe you have inadvertently reinforced my point.

      • koolmoe says:

        Fwiw, I think the parent posters first point is substantial and correct, only in the sense of that point; it really doesn’t/shouldn’t matter, but it’s super critical the Trumpian view.

        • lawtalkinguy says:

          That is all I was saying.  I actually agree to some extent with bmaz that it is wrong to focus too much on it.  I am particularly scared that some of the items in the dossier are not only wrong, but deliberate misinformation that can be used to discredit the dossier, and therefore all of the allegations.

          But people are going to focus on the dossier no matter what.  When items are verified, It is therefore helpful  in the larger PR battle that will ultimately determine if anything is done about the election and Trump’s other lawlessness.

        • bmaz says:

          But that is exactly the thing…..And the point. The “Dossier” was a raw product. It was never intended to be a finished product to be taken apart at the seams as it has been. It was not intended to be that to any “side”.

          And, yet, here we are, on an arguably enlightened site, still having this conversation. If anybody thought this crap was ever going to see the light of day in a trial court, please step up and tell me how.

          And, no, do not bleat at me about some probable cause warrant app (Hi Carter Page!) where less than admissible in a trial court shit gets considered every day of our lives, in every criminal court in the nation, and rightfully and properly so.

          And, for the record, the angst in this response was NOT directed at LawTalkinGuy, who gave a measured and reasonable comment.

  19. P J Evans says:

    I’m actually more interested in Manafort than Cohen, as Manafort seems to have been much more deeply involved in all of this than he wants people to think – but it’s possible that Cohen was in Prague as a way for Russia to get a more usable handle on him than they already had.

  20. pseudonymous in nc says:

    @EW (reply function borked): here’s the post where you picked up on my comment about memos 134-135-136 and the rapid elaboration of Cohen’s supposed European holiday:

    You’re right that anything aimed at Stone (and perhaps Corsi) is likely to fill in some blanks between September and Election Day. But for now, we only have very sketchy accounts of ConFraudUS actions in those months:

    1. GRU: the analytics hack, the investigation of state/county board websites, the spearphishing attempt mimicking the voter registration verification vendor they’d hacked in August.
    2. IRA: a few staged rallies and Woke Blacks / TEN_GOP / etc. social media stuff, some identity theft (though a lot came soon after the election)
    3. Van der Zwaan: September conversation with Kilimnik that he lied about and attempted to hide traces of.
    4. Cohen: October payments to Daniels and to McDougall via AMI
    5. Manafort: mortgage shenanigans
    6. er, I can’t think of anything else.

    • Eureka says:

      Related to your list, I am wondering if anything else from the then-public side can be tied into the indictments’ contents a la call-and-response, ask and you shall receive.  Can (esp.) points 1 and 2 add up to 6.

      I am specifically thinking of Trump’s 8-12-16 Altoona looney tunes rally.  There he implements what I’d call the hard-Manafort* Ukraine version of a call for poll watchers (i.e. asking for police officials), besides the general public.  It all slides back into plain old Stone Stop the Steal-isms eventually, and maybe the distinction isn’t important, but it is there.

      Why I’d wonder if that speech was a desperate call for assistance:  because HRC was then firmly up in Pennsylvania (9+), and at that and later times, it was bandied that Trump would not be able to win if he didn’t win there.  (I’m stopping the story here because I already deposited a ‘book report of 2016 bother’ somewhere on these pages a few weeks ago that goes on about the black vote suppression efforts, etc., targeting rust belt areas.  Whether Trump wanted or expected to win or not, or sought cover stories for either outcome, he and especially his surrogates worked those angles diligently.  They tried to win, I think, and the surrogates wanted their own POTUS-attached opportunities.)

      *Decades ago the GOP called for police poll watchers.  Manafort’s re-importation seems more proximate to 2016 in several ways, e.g. EW’s Manafort Modus Operandi post.)

      Articles for some context:
      This one originates re: and ca. the August 12 Altoona rally, with link to NBC video, but is updated October 1 after he repeats cheating claims at another rally (and with HRC margin then much narrower per polls in article, pre-Comey letter).  It also links another Aug. Bump piece claiming Trump has no real GOTV effort, citing Trump-GOP tension in ~ impeding Trump’s access to *R* turnout systems and data.  Possibly purloined DNC analytics aside, little did the pundits know the persuasive powers of endless teevee and social media boosts.
      Trump says he will only lose Pennsylvania if there’s widespread voter fraud. That’s very wrong
      This one contextualizes the Altoona call with the ’80s consent decree prohibiting certain GOP voter intimidation tactics with links to more on it, and has a screenshot of the Trump website Trump Election Observer sign-up.
      How Donald Trump’s bizarre voter-watch effort could get the GOP in trouble

  21. skua says:

    I am very OK with waiting to find out if Cohen was in Prague or not.

    It is possible that he was there for reasons to do with the madness in men’s trousers, rather than Russian conspiracy business.
    If so then Mueller may be protecting here, not a part of RussCon but, Cohen’s marriage.

    There are many possibilities. And buying into any of them without good evidence, or the possibility of a big pay-off, does not seem reasonable.

  22. WilliamOckham says:

    I just did a Twitter rant about this and I am going to comment here as well. I agree with EW that if Cohen was in Prague, Mueller already knows and this story is no big deal. If the story is wrong, again, no big deal. But if Cohen wasn’t in Prague AND the story is correct, well, now we know something we didn’t know before. Brief cell tower pinging is consistent with someone having cloned Cohen’s cell phone. Couple that with the Russians being intercepted talking about Cohen being in Prague and you have a real intelligence disinformation operation against Steele.

    • Trip says:

      If there were two identical phones (1 a clone), they’d be pinging at different towers simultaneously. One in the US, one in Europe. It should be easy to determine that.

  23. skua says:

    @pseudonymous in nc
    Here is a slightly sardonic article on Russian/Trump-circle confluences in the months just before September 2016.
    Here is “17 Times Trump And His Team Denied Contact With Russians”
    The contrast between these multiple Russian contacts and Trump lying repeatedly about, “No Russian contacts” is strong.

    Opportunity abounds. Mueller may have documented motives. And also have strong evidence of specific actions taken.

    (Not arguing against your post – rather showing what was happening just before the period you are looking at.)

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      (reply came back!)

      Yeah, that’s kind of my point: the narrative in the speaking indictments is very sketchy when it gets to September-November. But those indictments also show the extent to which investigators got inside the IRA and GRU operations. So, assuming that active measures weren’t wound down or subcontracted to Wikileaks in the final stages — which seems implausible — there’s a lot that Mueller’s team knows and isn’t close to telling. (Hence Eric Dubelier’s “nude selfie” trollbrief today.) Even the Papadopoulos statement of offense ends its 2016 narrative in August.

      (Yes, Steele memo 130 talks about “buyers’ remorse” in Moscow in mid-October, with the suggestion that the most damaging hacked material had already been released, but Steele’s weakness on the hack-leak has been documented at this here website.)

  24. Maui mom says:

    McClatchy reporter Peter Stone is now on Chris Hayes.  Why didn’t he invite Marcy for the real story?

  25. Mauimom says:

    McClatchy reporter Peter Stone was just on Chris Hayes.  Why didn’t they Marcy instead, to get a better story?

  26. Greg says:

    Isn’t it possible that the phone info McClatchy’s sources discussed are from a phone Mueller doesn’t have? I’m just thinking that if Cohen was in the habit of using lots of different phones for different reasons, evidenced by all the phone of his Mueller did get ahold of,  maybe he used other phones that Mueler didn’t get ahold of? Ones he used and left in Europe?

      • Rugger9 says:

        The Steele Dossier has not been used as evidence in any OSC filing I know of, indicating that Mueller has other sources he can use in court.  In one way it does make it a tempest in a teapot, probably hyped by Kaiser Quisling and his palace minions to distract  from other stuff.  It is not useless but also not going to survive a cross examination either.

        One thing I did run across on DK (I think) was that Junior speaks fluent Czech and had been going to Prague something like every other year, so would it be possible that the phone Cohen had registered to him was really Junior’s to use (and that really doesn’t help the Palace if that is the case) with built in deniability? Consider that to be speculation.

        • bmaz says:

          See, that has always been the thing with the “Dossier”. It was never going to be used in open court. And if it is not admitted into evidence, it cannot be cross-examined. Even if a defendant wanted to “use” it, THEY would have to admit it into evidence. That would not be so easy, and would be some historically stupid lawyering. And that is why I keep yammering how focus on it is nuts.

          I don’t know yet where, or if, the phone stuff will go anywhere. But, even if it ever does, it does not make the “Dossier” anything more than the red herring it already is.

        • r helder says:

          junior speaks another language?!?  i am dumbfounded.

          his dad hasn’t even mastered english as a second…

  27. obsessed says:

    Leaving aside whether McClatchy or the dossier are true, here’s what I honestly don’t understand (and I promise you I’m not a troll – I’ve been a faithful follower since the beginning of PlameGate). What is the obsession with the “pee tape”? Why does anyone think this would move the needle if true? Trump admitted in his own voice to sexual assault. Why would his base or anyone else really care is he has a gross, but not illegal, sexual kink? I mean, it would prove that the Russians were gathering kompromat but why would it be the straw that breaks Trump’s back after all the other horrific stuff that’s come out?

    • William Bennett says:

      Trump admitted in his own voice to sexual assault. Why would his base or anyone else really care is he has a gross, but not illegal, sexual kink?

      For those susceptible to the strongman appeal, “I grab ’em by the pussy” plays into his image as a rich macho playboy. “I’m really into watersports” not so much.

      • Callender says:

        There is a tendency to speak of the “pee tape” as “water sports,” AKA golden showers – and the rather esoteric sexual proclivities of Tangerine Mussolini.

        I don’t think this is the case, if I understand the description of the activity described in the dossier.

        Tangerine Mussolini was only interested in defiling the bed slept in by Obama – not getting any sexual thrills.  He paid the girls to do it as an act of theater, not to get his jollies.   Allegedly.  Allegedly.

        His protestations to that effect are an example of the rare situation where he might be telling the truth.


        • Callender says:

          By “protestations” I mean his insistence he’s germ-phobic and not the type to participate in water sports.
          It has the ring of truth to me.

        • bmaz says:

          And this jives with Trump’s decades long history as an unremitting sex freak that won’t even use condoms exactly how??

          Also, what does “Tangerine Mussolini” add instead of just using his name? I seriously do not get that. The thought that not just using a clear name, but going for some nonsense, when other people will be reading these comments, is simply asinine.

  28. P J Evans says:

    @obsessed, I think it’s the media fascination with salacious material. (It sells copies better than the fact-based analysis you get here.)

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      I think it’s on par with Stormy Daniels’ description of his (lack of) prowess. This is the man who got the New York Post to run the “Best Sex Ever” front page. And Comey’s memos suggest that his boss was fixated on the allegation.

      I don’t care about the scurrilous stuff. It’d be funny if it were true, especially if you imagine Rudy911 on cablenews saying “so what, it’s not a crime.”

  29. sam bonner says:

    IF it can be proven that Cohen was in Prague at the time the dossier claimed he was, it would serve as a verification of the dossier, at least in that part. This is not a minor thing at all in the public relations war that could very well decide Trump’s fate in terms of his longevity as president.

    I appreciate those who say there is already evidence of criminal activity by the Trump gang, but that is not something that has sunk into popular perception as of yet. In other words, these crimes may not be sufficient to persuade Americans Trump has to go.

    • bmaz says:

      Eh, it is relatively minor as, legally, the “Dossier” is one of the biggest red herrings in the history of man. Maintaining that it has some relevance, other than as the raw oppo it really was, is to further the stupidity,

    • William Bennett says:

      Seems like the discussion around this is a bit at cross-purposes, confusing the strictly legal arena vs the public-perception arena. It can be true that COHEN/PRAGUE would be absolutely damning in the arena of public perception even if irrelevant or redundant in the legal arena. In terms of the latter, it goes something like: we can already see there’s ample, legally substantial evidence for ConFraudUS irrespective of COHEN/PRAGUE, so why bother with something that is at best moot and at worst a distraction.

      But from a public-perception standpoint there’s much to be said for having a simple narrative handle for the whole diffuse conspiracy, even if it’s entirely beside the point legally. Emotionally it’s The Big Reveal that comes in Act III: “He went to Prague to pay off the hackers, that’s why they lied about it!” Given that Team Trump is staking everything on winning in the arena of public perception, having something that would torpedo them in that realm even if largely redundant in the legal realm is obviously attractive.

      I guess the larger concern would be that the pursuit of the story tends to reinforce the narrative that the whole case stands or falls on STEELE. But I think the stakes there are actually asymmetrical. It’s the Trumpies, not Meuller, who have invested so much in localizing the whole case to the dossier in order to focus on discrediting it in the sphere of public opinion. But that same tactic is what weaponizes something like COHEN/PRAGUE, supposing it could be concretely proven, whereas the failure to turn up such evidence holds no equivalent downside for Team Mueller. If there is proof they already have it, as EW argues. If there isn’t, the case doesn’t rest on it anyway, whatever the Trump Party wants the public to believe.

      • Alan says:

        Well said, and if I had anything to add, it would only be that we should be circumspect about speculating on thinly-sourced stories, or reinforcing insignificant stories.  It will all come out in time.

  30. BobCon says:

    @bmaz, Greg – I would add that if Cohen was in Europe during the period described in the dossier, Mueller has other evidence – ticket receipts, passport records, credit card records, security camera recordings, something else. Cohen is not a master spy and he would not have gotten there in disguise by submarine or hang glider, and the FBI would not be treating this as a typical case of looking for a guy who smuggles songbirds into the country in his pants.

    Mueller would know about any trips, Cohen would know that Mueller knew, and Cohen would know the risks of throwing up a cloud of BS.

  31. Erica says:

    In regards to Cohen’s tweet from today, the part where he stated, “Mueller knows everything”, is very suspicious! Seems to me he’s giving someone a warning, don’t lie to Mueller. He could have planted this story himself justify the tweet without it looking suspicious! The story may have been a smokescreen for the tweet. Does this sound plausible to anyone?

    • tjallen says:

      I agree that Cohen is signaling someone, but for a different reason. If the phone was in Prague but Cohen was not, then Cohen gave this (burner) phone to someone else, who was in Prague. So when Cohen says Mueller knows everything, he means that Mueller knows who was in Prague with one of Cohen’s phones.

    • Will says:

      Assuming he has been to Prague, saying via tweet he has never been to Prague, he is sharing the cover story he is still telling the FBI, because he doesn’t think it can be refuted.

      When he says “Mueller knows everything” he is covering his tracks (while FURTHER communicating that this is his current cover), and trying to cowtow to investigators (a habit he picked up working with his old employer).

        • Will says:

          I agree.  Cohen saying publicly that he has never been to Prague is suspicious.  Like he is sending a signal to another witness/conspirator.

          Him saying “Mueller knows everything” is a way to disguise the signal and be slightly sycophantic.

          I think he is as much a cooperating witness as Manafort.

        • Will says:

          “Mueller knows everything” could mean “Mueller doesn’t have proof we were in Prague, don’t deviate from this story” (bmaz your anxiety inducing reputation precedes you:)

        • bmaz says:

          Agree with your first comment (and, I think, this one too). And have no predisposition to causing anxiety in anyone. Also, should have said it previously, welcome to Emptywheel Blog.

  32. Erica says:

    This could also be a ploy by Mueller and Cohen, to proke a reaction from Trump and to give Trump more rope to hang himself when he is finally subpoenaed! Cohen maybe lying and Mueller has 100% bullet proof evidence that Trump knew he went! The McClatchy article is just too suspicious! The Russians are very slick cookies but can they outsmart Mueller?

  33. allison holland says:

    regarding the pee tape i think men might have a different look upon that sort of experimental intimacy.than women. as far as trump is concerned.most women who try hard to defend him with other women would not be able to easily or casually dismiss this particular action away. its just too too gross. its not sexual. its something else.. so if he really did pee or had prostitutes pee upon the mattress in the room where the obamas stayed then i think that would actually make a difference to a lot of women.not all. but perhaps enough that could actually be significant. i am from texas and it is not hard to find a woman somewhere who doesnt mind how hateful he is but thats one thing. this would be something….different. beastial in a way.

    • Trip says:

      How the hell can that be the last straw, when he is putting kids in detention camps and some of them are dying? That is way more deviant in my book.

      • allison holland says:

        i wasnt thinking about women who are normal. like i said i live in texas and most people here are up in arms and on their knees crying and praying for these children. i was talking about women who are still in trumps corner. the racists. people like the homeland security woman. women  like that. women who can look the other way when its other women being hurt or a mans unfaithfulness. like de vos who thinks women should be silent and are fine with black children being punished more harshly in elementary school. i was talking about these women. i actually think the pee pee tape would affect them differently. they dont feel like others so its hard to walk in their shoes and imagine what they feel. but i have talked to them. their hatred of others and even other women is a protective hearth fake out. thats all. i think its untrue. but if it isnt i dont care. i just think a lot of women who are still with him would peel off. i dont think they would be vocal about it. i think they would just stay home.

    • Drew says:

      I think the pee tape, in addition to its salacious appeal, is particularly something that certain sorts of “Never Trumpers” and other Republicans, who would rather not have such an overtly boorish and incompetent Republican administration in the White House, because having such specific bad behavior on Trump’s part as the problem would allow the surgical removal of Trump & a few cronies while saving the “conservative project” without so much muss and fuss.

      This, of course, is not realistic, but it contributes to pushing the Steele Dossier. A red herring as @bmaz observes, to be sure, but some of these folks have convinced themselves of this. btw in some of these circles there are substantial rumors flowing that copies of the pee tape exist and have been seen by journalists.

  34. di says:

    i never gave significance to the dossier, but wondered why it was being given so much attention. what was the purpose of that emphasis?

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      It offered a narrative before anyone else offered a narrative. It was the wrong narrative, as Mueller’s work has proven in spades, but the fallacy that the first  explanation becomes the reference explanation doesn’t go away.

  35. Troutwaxer says:

    I should note, as someone who works with networks on a daily basis, that “contact” with a particular router (the system atop a cell phone tower is a router) is barely diagnostic of anything. If I want to see whether a particular IP address is working, I can ping it, like this:

    “ping” (Or I can type “ping” which will take me to a different router owned by Google.)

    And now I’ve had contact with Google.

    The particular IP Address – – is the Google DNS server. (It’s more likely I’d ping it to find out whether my network was working, because is super-easy to reach, but that’s not particularly important.) The point is that once I issue the command, Google has some records showing that I’ve pinged their DNS server from my laptop. And I do that every day because that’s how I test a new networks I’ve helped to install. If I were being investigated for a charge similar to what Cohen is being investigated for, this ordinary work behavior could be Very Easily Misinterpreted.

    But “ping” is a specific command. It sends a “hello” to a particular IP address, and the device at that IP address sends a “hello” in return. The ping command is a diagnostic command, and you’re not likely to use it unless you’re having trouble connecting to a network. So wearing my “network technician” hat, I’m a little suspicious of this reporting, because all it really tells us is that Cohen’s phone said “Hello” to a router in Prague.

    What’s more likely (if Cohen was, in fact, in Prague) is that his phone sent out a DHCP request. DHCP is “Dynamic Host Control Protocol,” and it means that a device has newly come on line and is requesting the information it needs to join a network. Essentially, the device (possibly Cohen’s device) is asking that the new network assign it an IP Address, a Gateway, and a Subnet Mask. Once the device has this information, it can now use the network (and it can’t use the network without this information, except in a very, very limited fashion.)

    It’s also worth noting that routers (like those atop cell phone towers) do route communications from one place to another. For example, the route my home computer takes to get to runs through 15 separate routers, staring with my home router, then going through the ISP’s router on my premises, then through 12 other routers and finally hitting the Google router/server on the 15th hop. So I don’t have to be nearby to ping something, and I don’t have to ping a particular router for it to show network traffic from my home computer, because any router which helped my ping get to it’s ultimate destination will have a record of contact from my device. From the computer I’m writing on in the U.S, I can ping any network address which will return a ping, including those in Prague and also including routers in Prague which will take my signal to it’s final destination, which might be in Germany, Russia, or Poland…

    The ultimate meaning of all this is that if Cohen’s phone pinged a router in Prague, that doesn’t mean Cohen was in Prague.

    So this is one of those issues where exact technical details are enormously important. A ping to Prague isn’t a big deal. A DHCP request would likely be a very big deal (or it might not, because a DHCP request made in Germany might be transferred to a DHCP Server in Prague) so before we can say that any particular happening involving a router in Prague means Cohen was in Prague… we’d need the exact technical details to know whether it’s a big deal or not.

    It’s possible that the reason McClatchy is the only news organization which is reporting this is that whatever technical person fact-checked the article doesn’t understand networking very well… Other news organizations may have seen the same reports and their technical people said, “this doesn’t prove anything. Show me the logs from every router involved in the transaction and I’ll tell you if this is important.”

    The technical details matter.

    • taluslope says:


      I hadn’t thought of my smartphone making DHCP requests but that makes sense for regular web traffic.  If someone were to make a cell phone call in Prague would that require a DHCP request, implying, what voice over IP?

      As I understand it your discussion also applies to Alpha Bank repeatedly “pinging” Trump tower (actually a Trump server).  It wasn’t really the ping program but apparently DNS (Domain Name Service) lookups to form connections probably to then exchange data (

      And cool, I’m only 5 hops from Seattle and 10 (depending on route) from

    • Anne says:

      IP protocols are not the same as GSM protocols.  And “ping” is not a concept used in GSM standards.  The MS (Mobile Station = cell phone) “listens” to the available towers, decides which one is loudest, and requests to connect to it.  The local exchange (Visitor Exchange, the brains of the network) assigns a temporary local (visitor) phone number and informs the Home Location Register (centralized data base) to update the phone’s new information.  That information doesn’t include which cell tower it’s in; that is known only in the Visitor Exchange.  If the phone moves to a new exchange area, the new Visitor Exchange updates the Home Location Register, which erases the previous information.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        The exact phrasing of the McClatchy article is “The records show that the brief activation from Cohen’s phone near Prague sent beacons that left a traceable electronic signature, said the four sources.” The McClatchy article doesn’t mention pings, but the word was extensively used by commenters above my first post on the subject.
        Sending out a beacon is a very compatible with what you wrote above, and very standard for many kinds of wireless connection. If they have records of Cohen’s phone sending out beacons in Prague, that is much more damning than a ping. But once again, show me the logs.

        Read more here:

        • wesmorgan1 says:

          Sending out a beacon is a very compatible with what you wrote above, and very standard for many kinds of wireless connection. If they have records of Cohen’s phone sending out beacons in Prague, that is much more damning than a ping. But once again, show me the logs.

          End-user cellular devices don’t “send out beacons” willy-nilly in normal operations.  (How long do you think your battery would last if you were constantly broadcasting beacons?)

          The BASE STATIONS (i.e. towers) send out beacons.  Cellular devices listen for those, examine them, and take action based upon the device’s configuration, carrier settings (particularly the preferred roaming list (PRL)), etc.  (The same applies to wifi connections, FYI; the access point or wifi router sends out beacons, to which clients respond in different ways, according to the client configuration.  In most cases, the wifi client does NOT send out beacons.)

          A cell phone doesn’t just start broadcasting data when you come out of airplane mode; it does begin listening for (and, perhaps, responding to) signals broadcast from the various towers in the area.

          In layman’s terms, the phone never starts yelling “here I am!  here I am!” indiscriminately with a beacon; it DOES listen to see who’s talking (the towers) and ask directly, “Hey, 12345, I hear you…I’m 23933402093, can we work together?”.

          Once he took his phone out of airplane mode, it would immediately begin listening for local towers, prioritizing them (“my carrier, on my Preferred Roaming List, everybody else”) and attempting to associate with them.  The device might attempt to associate with several towers before doing so successfully; I’ve seen that kind of behavior many times when traveling abroad.  That behavior would also explain what the McClatchy article described as “briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area”; it wasn’t the phone blanketing an area with “beacons”, but rather the phone attempting to associate to multiple cell towers…which is “as expected, by design” behavior for cell devices in that situation, especially when in roaming mode.

          Finally, there’s no way to do this remotely; since the phone is responding to broadcasts from the various towers, the phone must be in close physical proximity to the towers in question.

          You say “show me the logs” – I’m assuming that McClatchy’s sources are referring to those very logs, even if they did mischaracterize the traffic as “beacons”.  We aren’t likely to see those logs pop up on Google Drive any time soon.  *chuckle*

        • Troutwaxer says:

          It’s very nice, having started this portion of the discussion, to see so many people who know more than I do contributing, and it’s wonderful to see the group’s technical understanding of these matters getting deeper – I’m very much a wired network person who was responding to the use of the word “ping.”

          As to your point about the logs, agreed completely. I don’t expect to see them either, but since McClatchy is the only one reporting this incident, I’d like to know something about who showed them the logs and who validated the information McClatchy was shown.

    • wesmorgan1 says:

      Yes, the technical details matter – and you’re off base.

      Assuming we’re in the GSM world, Layer 3 networking isn’t involved in phone-to-tower association; that’s handled at Layer 2 (data link layer in the OSI model), via the LAPDm protocol.  There is no “ping” analogy to be had, because the phone already knows which towers are available from their various signals, and it doesn’t attempt to connect to a “remote” tower (as you would “ping” a remote system) because it only sees local towers.

      Even if I were to remotely ping the Layer 3 IP address of a tower base station, that wouldn’t come in via the radio interface used by devices (which is using GSM/LAPDm, remember); it would arrive via the external-facing IP interface.  In other words, it would be easily distinguished from mobile device traffic.

      Even then, Layer 3 can introduce a huge precision error to geolocation efforts, depending upon how the carrier allocates IP addresses.  For instance, my phone’s current IPv4 address geolocates to a town 15 miles away, and its current IPv6 address geolocates to an location more than 50 miles away.  Associating to specific cell towers is the most precise trigger for geolocation – and even that can deliver only cloud of possible locations.  (If one has access to the real time data, one can do a much more accurate geolocation via triangulation among 3 or more towers, but that can’t be done easily with after-the-fact data.)

      Long story short – there’s no way for a remote transaction to show up as a local radio transaction, intermediate devices don’t maintain traffic records of the sort you envision, and IP networking doesn’t play a role in device-to-tower associations.  Your analogies are incorrect.

      • bmaz says:

        Again, Hi Wes!

        You certainly are a quick critic for somebody that first showed up here about an hour ago. What else you got?

        • Troutwaxer says:

          Relax bmaz, he’s not wrong. I was addressing the use of “ping” by parties who posted before I did, he’s discussing the exact nature of cell-tower communication; this isn’t remotely a fight.

        • wesmorgan1 says:

          That’s a fair critique.  I guess this wasn’t the best entrance to be had, eh?

          I’ve been reading emptywheel for a long time – originally on Daily Kos (where she posted until 2009-10 or so and commented until around 2012), then following her on Twitter.

          I also happen to be a network engineer by trade, which means I have a strong compulsion to correct misunderstandings, give background information, and generally “jump in with both feet” where network technologies are concerned.  Sometimes it’s a blessing, sometimes it’s a curse.  *chuckle*

          I hopped over here via a Daily Kos story which linked to this article.

          I’ll do my best to tone it down – mea maxima culpa.

        • Troutwaxer says:

          Just for the record, I’m not offended at all. You and all the other people who are correcting my limited understanding are adding deeply to the knowledge-base of the group about an important matter. Technical discussions must be robust or they are meaningless. (Though I’m still proud of myself for starting the discussion.)

        • Troutwaxer says:

          If you want a half-decent idea of how this works, download a Windows program called Inssider to your computer and turn it on (it will probably want a laptop, not a desktop, unless your desktop has wifi capability.) Inssider is a wifi analyzer, and it will show you (possibly) the name of the device sending the beacon, the signal strength, the MAC Address, (which is as unique as a fingerprint) and other information as well. Carry the laptop around your house and you’ll see that some beacons get stronger, some get weaker, etc. Imagine that you’re walking around Prague and that these beacons are cell towers. This is the kind of data we’re talking about.

          What the network professionals here are mainly interested in is the MAC Address, which is linked to a certain specific device* and contains useful data. What we’d really like to see is a log showing this kind of information for Cohen’s visit to Prague (if it occurred at all.)

          * Note that in a larger computer the MAC Address might be linked to a network card, and that the network card can be moved to a different computer. On a cell phone or tablet the MAC Address is built-into the device. Also note that GSM does work differently than ordinary WiFi, but this exercise will still paint a useful picture of the kind of environment we’re discussing here.

        • hester says:

          wes, don’t worry.  I know you from having been on dk.  i don’t think you have to tone it down.

          bmaz has a trigger finger…. fwiw.  you guys ( i presume) handle his critiques far better than i…. who slink away and stop commenting for a while.

        • bmaz says:

          This blog is not DK. If you have something intelligent and important to add, do so. If you have nothing more, then do not. Thanks.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        I was mainly addressing the use of “ping” by people who posted before I did; if you’re good at cell-tower stuff  (and I’m not) I’m very happy to have your knowledge added to the discussion. You’re quite correct that at Layer 2 you would definitely get a defining address – Cohen’ s phone’s MAC Address if he was there, and possibly Cohen’s cell’s beacon as well.

        And I agree with you completely about how an address might be localized – the DHCP server or it’s equivalent might be anywhere, even across an international border. I think we’re agreed that the big deal here is “Show me the logs” plus “show me the topology” (and I’ll tell you what happened.)

  36. NY Arch says:

    Another possibility on Prague: Cohen has refused to fully come clean to the SDNY about other, non-Trump related crimes. Which is why he was sentenced to 3 years even though Mueller’s team praised his cooperation. His wife’s father is known to be mobbed up with the Ukrainian mafia, which is where Cohen’s apparent wealth comes from. Perhaps he was in Prague on other family business that he is still afraid to reveal.

    On a side note I have long felt that Cohen, through his father-in-law’s connections to the Russian mob, was sent to Trump to keep tabs on him for one of Putin’s oligarchs. In fact, Trump admitted to hiring Cohen as a favor to his father-in-law. A favor that has never been explained.

    • JAAG says:

      Could be a simple as the fact that Trump needed capital after the banks lost interest in him.  Cohen shows up, having a laundering business in the cabs and teaches Donald where cash comes from in the post-soviet era. Donald hires Cohen and Sater to keep the dons happy and sending ill gotten gains. It doesn’t have to be about oligarchs protecting themselves.

  37. pseudonymous in nc says:

    @bmaz: to me, the fuckin’ dossier reminds me of the “bad quartos” of Shakespeare plays — the playtexts put out by people who badly transcribed stage performances from the pit, or by actors who only paid attention to their own lines and the cue lines in their scenes, and got most of everything else wrong. They tell you more about the circumstances of their production — and have legitimate value in that regard — than how the play was actually written.

    Once you categorise it as a bad quarto, you can do something with it in terms of thinking about sourcing and transmission. If you try to make a good quarto of it, you’re fucked.

      • bmaz says:

        Trip is right, it is a great analogy. That said, I STILL do not get the obsession, by anybody, with the fucking Dossier. It is a diversionary talking point. And a diversion that should be avoided.

    • BobCon says:

      I think of it kind of like Freudian theory. You had a smart guy trying to make sense of unexplored territory who came up with some genuine, worldview-changing insights. That smart guy also had significant biases and blindsights that give his original works very little usefulness as a working document today.

      You still see a few committed Freudians today, but they tend to be either lunatics, or else people who go through enormous contortions to make Freud conform to modern understanding of the mind and brain. You get a larger number of people who read Freud the way a modern scientist might read Aristotle, another brilliant but mostly wrong guy who still managed to kickstart a lot of current thought while operating largely in an empty arena.

      • Trip says:

        Aww come on, your complex hidden issues with your mother made you say that. ;D

        If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.

    • Herringbone says:

      Meh. You could actually turn that on its head and say the “Bad Quarto” theory is sort of the Steele Dossier of Shakespeare criticism—an early hypothesis that then came to dominate the discussion. There are other reasons that could explain why the “bad” quartos differ from their folio versions, including the revolutionary idea that Shakespeare and the actors he worked with might (gasp!) have revised the plays over time.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        I mean, if we’re going to dive into textual criticism, the memorial reconstruction theory doesn’t fit all cases, and I’m totally on board with  revision / adaptation for smaller casts. But the First Folio’s reference to “stol’n and surreptitious copies” isn’t just marketing, and my main point here is that the first account isn’t the fixed point of reference for all other accounts.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      Why not simply call the Steele Dossier what it is: early, unproven opposition research on Trump’s interactions with Russia, which were worrisome enough that the compilers of the dossier eventually turned it over to American and British intelligence services, who then investigated further. There’s no need for confusing analogies.

      If you must liken it to something, liken it to a 911 call. Someone has evidence that some kind of crime is being committed. They call the police, who then file formal charges, which might be modified once the DA takes over the case.

      • Maybe Ryan says:


        What i dont get is the obsession with trashing the dossier. Making it out to be something much worse than it is.

        If the dossier or the info in it was intended as a red herring, that was the most glorious couterintel failure of all time, providing a compelling narrative of treason when little if any other evidence was available to the public, in a setting where public opinion was a hell of a lot more important than whatever Comey or Strzok may have pieced together by then.

        What is interesting in the article is that the cell evidence was discovered sometime after Cohen’s trip. In other words, the foreign service wasnt monitoring Cohen live and only knew what cell to trace afterwards, presumably after receiving a request from American intei and/or prosecutors.

        What do this thread’s telecom experts make of the McClatchy/ Neumann / former DOJ idea that cells can be located even when powered down?  Seems like battery performance in off would have to parallel normal performance, something i havent experienced.

  38. greengiant says:

    @troutwaxer ping in media talk about cell phones does not mean your computer internet ping. The cell phones are continuously “pinging” cell towers so the towers and the phone can figure out what the deal is. Then when people go missing, techs and or phone companies can use the ping records and sometimes triangulate the rough position of the cell phone. I can guess some phones with GPS are continuously updating location for big data like per recent media article on apps and the Ford Motor CEO who said all their profits would come from selling continuous location records of all their new cars.
    By the way google not only provides a DNS lookup service, but if I recall correctly the ISPs use google for a blacklist check on any IP address you click on. So not only your ISP and your mal ad ware and the NSA know every click, so does google as far as desktops and laptops. Worse with smart phones.

  39. pseudonymous in nc says:

    And again, to bring newbies up to speed: Glenn Simpson testified that that the only specific request he made of Steele was to look into Cohen, based on what Ed Baumgartner had found from public records in the USA. And when Steele made those inquiries, a single source solidified a vague report into the Prague story over the course of only a few days, and that was with some prodding. And all that came after Steele had briefed Isikoff and other journalists. The pool might have been polluted long beforehand — I think I’m more agnostic than EW on whether it was polluted from day 1 — but it was definitely polluted by mid-October.

  40. taluslope says:

    @troutwaxer:  Similarly Alpha Bank was not really regularly “pinging” Trump tower as some people reported but was using DNS (Domain Name System) lookups to a Trump server, likely to form a connection and then exchange data,

    Also, cool!  I’m only 5 hops from Seattle and 10 from

    • Rugger9 says:

      Alfabank is my best guess for Bank #1 owned by Country #1 in the superduper_hushhush_pinkyswear_secret Mueller grand jury subpeona.  I don’t think it is Deutsche Bank since I would guess that Merkel would authorize the subpoena and the report is that the government in question said “no”.

  41. taluslope says:

    @troutwaxer: Similarly, Alpha Bank was not regularly “pinging” Trump Tower as I first remember reading. They were apparently using DNS (Domain Name System) to lookup and then make a network connection to a Trump server, presumably to exchange textual messages,

    Also, cool, I’m only 5 hops from Seattle and 10 from

    • Troutwaxer says:

      That’s a log I’d really like to see. For example, imagine that the IP Address for the Trump DNS server is and that Alpha Bank used the nslookup utlity:


      Now encrypt the string “putin-sent-you-an-important-message” and you get


      which is a completely valid nslookup command, and now “putin sent you an important message” is in the logs for the DNS server in encrypted form. Let me be very, very clear that I’m just speculating here. But there are lots of interesting ways to encrypt little strings of information and put them into various command-line utilities which use the network, and I could easily write a program that did this using nslookup, ping, or file permissions, and probably others.

      Once again, this is just speculation, but I think it’s interesting speculation.

      • Doug R says:

        I was suspecting they were saving email drafts and then the other party would recall them, basically email without emailing like al Qaeda used to do.

  42. Willis Warren says:

    Can we put the dossier troll stuff in red? That way I’ll know what to skip. Apparently, the intel Steele got was fed to other state agencies as well, per Bellingcat. If that’s true, I’d say it’s pretty likely that the information was meant to deceive. It’s working pretty well, obviously. Maybe Cohen is the goat, maybe he’s just playing games. We’ll see.

  43. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Cellphone towers often have had their software updated so that they automatically triangulate phone location, duplicating the phone’s onboard GPS locator.

    As others have said, turning a phone on in a location with cell service will result in the service identifying and locating the phone (sim and machine numbers), regardless of whether a call is placed. Who has the phone is another matter. But we know that Trump’s notion of security is archaic, and Cohen’s is only slightly better.

    This stuff is becoming routine in criminal investigations, to say nothing of national security investigations. If telecoms service or NSA data is out there, Mr. Mueller will have obtained it and incorporated what he needs into the rest of his investigations, and could parallel construct what he requires for any prosecution. The bigger issue is what strategies Mueller is pursuing and how this evidence would promote them.

    • Trip says:

      There’s also the question of the Eastern European Intelligence service listening to Russian chatter.

      Did McClatchy speak directly to them, verify that they are who they said they were?  Are these people more or less simpatico with Putin?

      Is it a game of telephone where one person is reporting on another report third hand and so on?

      Is it a tool of disinformation from our intelligence to prompt responses or is it disinformation from foreign intelligence for wild goose chases? Did it really happen, and if so, was the chatter a ruse and so on.

  44. Trip says:

    Dumb question alert: Is a grand jury indictment out of the question today because it’s a holiday week? I know that the Mueller investigation is funded independently, but does the partial shutdown slow the process of indictments in any way in the courts? Thanks for anyone who can answer.

    • Alan says:

      January, dude. Everyone’s on vaca or chilling this week–even if an attorney who works in the Special Counsel’s office wanted to unveil an indictment his week (and they don’t), they still wouldn’t do it because they don’t want to ruffle the feathers of their staff, the court staff, the US Marshall’s staff and everyone else who would be affected by it.

    • Frank Probst says:

      If I had to guess–and this is definitely just a wild-ass guess–I’d say that they’re not meeting this week.  It would be a scheduling nightmare.

      • Trip says:

        Yeah, the grand jury itself is made up of regular people who have normal lives, travel on holidays, etc. which I failed to consider while posing the question.

  45. Shaun Mullen says:

    One thing I learned (the hard way) over years of investigative reporting and editing is that you overestimate the principles in a story at your own peril.

    I wrote the following at my wee little blog the other day:
    “There are so many characters that figuring out who and what is important in the Russia scandal is difficult.  Add to that the fact there is some truth to the rejoinder in Trump’s defense that his campaign advisers were so naive and dumb that they couldn’t have colluded with Russia.   

    “Indeed, some characters were incredibly dumb, their efforts to collude went nowhere and occasionally were comic, if anyone should feel like laughing.  Other characters like Donald Trump Jr., Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were dumb, but they succeeded to varying degrees in the goal of electing Trump with Russian help.”
    When you take a big step back, as Marcy and some of the astute commenters here have, you become aware of how great a role dumb, f*cking luck played in this whole sordid saga.

  46. earlofhuntingdon says:

    There is no truth to the notion cynically put forward by Trump’s defenders that Donald Trump and his advisers were too naive and too dumb to commit ConFraudUS with the Russians.

    Naivety has never entered the Trump world, except among those who believe him. His ignorance, however, is profound, as is his inability to recognize it, which comes with the territory and which precludes it as a defense to trying to conspire with the Russians.

    Given the plethora of Russian contacts among his closest advisers – and within the Russian money-dependent Trump businesses – they could only actively have sought to conspire with the Russians.  That they made a hash of it, in a career filled with bad deals, is a given.  That they did it and meant to do it is too.

    • Trip says:

      Not only that @earl, it doesn’t take into account that the Trump business model, beginning with Fred, was corrupt, a sham inside a scam, and it relied upon other corrupt actors to flourish. The same continued with Trump, payoffs, favors, threats, bribes and bullshit. The only portion of the Trump business, not directly corrupted by a Trump, was the Apprentice, which was “corrupted” by Burnett in presenting Trump as something greater than he was: a “successful” businessman. I suppose that part could be forgiven in the sense that Trump was hired for an acting role, which did not present the real person behind the character. But the public was duped, not recognizing that “reality” shows are not documentaries of high standards in achieving objectivity. They are the complete opposite, scripted, edited and manipulated horseshit to entertain. The trend began after the writers’ strike, where getting regular people to act stupid in front of cameras was a helluva lot cheaper than paying talented writers and accomplished actors…because profit margins, of course.

  47. Andy says:

    Steele worked in MI6 for 22 years, with 3 of those on the Russian Desk. I have to believe he was familiar with disinformation. This article at Lawfare recently looked at how the dossier has held up (, which they say it does. It is raw intelligence but I have yet to read anything detailing significant problems with its veracity. McClatchy for me has been a reasonably professional paper and a good muckraker. They have stood by their original story for a long time. I am betting they are right, just like they were right about the Iraq war.

    • BobCon says:

      The point to be stressed is that whether true or not, it is small potatoes and a sideshow.

      Any informed reading of Steele’s dossier is that it’s only about a very small piece of what happened, so whether it’s 25% true, 50% true or even 100% true, that’s not important now.

      What frustrates a lot of people here is that a lot of discussion of the dossier begs a question — it assumes that the validity of the case depends on the validity of the dossier, in the way that a case involving a search depends on a police officer witnessing a certain thing prior to the search.

      The GOP very much wants it to be the foundation of the case, so that they can hammer away at any incorrect details or false conclusions. They hope to propagandize the document so that it can disqualify the whole investigation in the way an illegal search can disqualify an entire case. The Russians may have even tried to shade the evidence flowing to Steele to introduce things that discredited the document in the long run, even if that evidence was technically true. But it’s been clear that the investigators moved on from it long, long ago, and people who want the truth about Trump and Russia should too.

      • Rugger9 says:

        It’s kind of like those releases of Mueller’s questions to Kaiser Quisling by Sekulow among others before they were actually asked not that long ago.  The idea is to frame up and knock down straw men and call it definitive proof that there was nothing going on.

        However, as I noted to the troll du jour, the GOP was perfectly happy to grind through Benghazi and Whitewater for years with no indictments, no convictions and one political impeachment by Rs who can’t seems to be concerned now.  McCarthy even admitted the purpose of Benghazi and HRC emails investigations was to harm Hillary before being passed over for Speaker because he did so.

  48. klynn says:

    Honestly, I find the timing of the “Butina’s parents saying she likes sex with old, powerful men” story dropping about the same time as the “Cohen phone ping story” a more interesting discussion.

    • Trip says:

      In their defense, IIRC, I believe they characterized Butina as a good organizer, but the TV host threw out the old-republican-guy-sex-kink theory, and not her parents.

  49. flatulus says:

    I fell asleep last night with the ear worm, sung to the tune of “Singing In The Rain,” I’m Pinging In Prague.

  50. Trip says:

    allison holland says:
    December 28, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    @allison, maybe you’re right. However, the puritanical judgemental bent of the right already succumbed to false idol worship, they are out there on a cliff with Trump, and faith is a difficult thing to destroy. They’ve forgiven all else, including allegations of pedophilia in re Roy Moore and the other allegations against Trump. I think there is no bridge too far, at this point. IMHO only, people in that camp are too far gone.

  51. Trip says:

    Jenny says:
    December 28, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Jenny, that really paints Burnett as an equally detestable human being as Trump. It figures he’s behind Shark Tank, another horrible show, filled with a group of hate-able arrogant assholes who have no place on TV.

    Absolutely hate Survivor as well.

    • Vern says:

      Presaging the current machinations of the Trumpster, in the article Burnett cops to “reverse editing” of the show to match Trumps gut/lashing out.  I.e., Trump would fire the “wrong” person and Burnett would go back thru the footage and edit it to support the firing.

      Reality Bites!

      • Jenny says:

        Lights! Camera! Action!

        The magic of “editing” to make a fraud look good on a fake show.  It’s all about money and ratings, smoke and mirrors.

  52. earlofhuntingdon says:

    To put another nail in the coffin of the cynical argument that Trump and his people were too naive and too stupid to “collude” with the Russians, since when has being naive or dumb been a valid legal defense? The argument would have surprised the Rosenbergs and the prosecutors and judges who sent them to death row.

    American prisons are filled with the naive and dumb, as well as the violent and angry, the predatory and pathological, the unlucky, and people of color for being people of color.

    States try minors as adults, despite their immaturity. Texas and Florida execute the mentally ill and the low-IQ for crimes they have trouble comprehending and against which they have trouble defending themselves in court. It’s just that not many of them are wealthy.

    The epitaph for the Trump men reads, “He Got Away With It.” The forebear who fled Prussia to avoid the draft, the one who ran prostitutes in the mining towns out west, the one who accumulated NYC real estate and serially cheated his tenants, creditors, contractors, and the government whose job it was to prevent and punish it.

    Donald was reared on the idea of getting away with it – violating the law for fun and profit, and as a substitute for length and girth. He was trained in it by his father and by a string of mentors like Roy Cohen. It’s one reason he inherited twice what he should have. It’s a game that Donnie likes to play, because he has always had enough money to win at it.

    That won’t help him now, which is why all bets are off when it comes to effective restraints on Trump’s behavior. But naive and dumb are descriptions he would only apply to his followers, rather like Mark Zuckerberg.

    • BobCon says:

      Hey, I had an ancestor who came to America to escape service in the Pruussian army. I resemble that remark! It was always a point of pride in my family lore.

      At any rate, you left out that Fred was in the Klan. I can safely say my dad never did that.

    • Jockobadger says:

      earlofhuntingdon – Your post is terrific.  Arrogance + ignorance is a very bad combo.  You’ve just nailed (for me, anyway) the reasons why Trump is who he is, and how he got where he is.  His enormous ego, ill-gotten inheritance, and education in the art of corruption by his father/minions led to a long string of “getting away with it.”  He must’ve really believed he could follow the same path, with the help of Russians/others, to get elected and then just pillage away.  I can’t believe he hadn’t observed politics enough to know that the skeletons will always out.  It suggests real idiocy.  I hope, for all of us, most especially my two boys, that this SOB has finally run into an immoveable object in the DOJ and Mueller.  Thank goodness he fired Comey.

      I can’t wait to read EW when I get up in the a.m.  Thanks to all of you.   Happy New Year!

    • P J Evans says:

      What I remember reading is that it was his grandfather who fled Prussia to avoid the draft, and after getting rich owning “hotels” (i.e. brothels) in Alaska or the Yukon, returned to Prussia, apparently expecting to be able to buy his way out of that military-service requirement – and he was expelled at that point. I don’t recall reading more about the reason for the expulsion; there may be docs in Germany that cover it in detail.

      (I went to college with one guy who left Singapore to avoid their military-service requirement – but he had no intention of going back. Ever.)

  53. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’m not critical of draft evasion so much as the hypocrisy. The Prussian army draft and the British navy’s impressment were exceptionally harsh. The Vietnam-era draft was openly racist and class-driven, with deferments more available to those who were married, or with children, or in college.

    By hypocrisy, I mean the chicken hawks, who mouth duty and patriotism in the abstract, but who “have better things to do,” when it comes to serving themselves.

    In Donald Trump’s case, he appears to have faked a medical reason to avoid the Vietnam draft, after four earlier deferments. That was despite his military school training. I think Dick Cheney, who derisively said he had better things to do than be drafted, came up with five deferments to avoid Vietnam. George W. Bush sauntered into a domestic TANG pilot slot with none of the usual prerequisites, but had gobs of money, an important father, and a former Senator, investment banker grandfather.

    Hypocrisy and unfair advantage are essential attributes for getting away with it.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Bolton was the one who said he had better things to do than die in the jungle.  However, Darth Cheney’s daughter Liz was his little permanent deferment, since being married in college was no longer enough.

      Shrub’s TANG service was also marred by a spotty attendance record (as in missing a lot of drills to go politicking), getting called out by Rather (who famously reported in the middle of firefights) but IIRC no records were ever produced even after an exhaustive search of the DoD archives by people who knew they’d get a triple promotion if they found anything at all.

      Chicken hawks are the norm for the GOP (with a couple of exceptions) including the hatchet job Saxby Chambliss did on Max Cleland in GA.

  54. jaango says:

    Excellent Work…Marcy Wheeler!!!

    For many years now, I have read emptywheeldotnet and given the level of attention to the ‘issues’ pertaining to Nat/Sec, and I find that Marcy, is head and shoulders above the generic journalism biz, either off=the=internet and on-the-internet.

    And I come at this subject matter from the standpoint is that next month, I start my 20th year as a political writer with a particular emphasis on Chicano and Native American military vets.  Thus, the Chicano Veterans Organization has a membership  roster  of  over  40,000 vets.  And when we served, we were the Privates, the Corporals and the Sergeants, and after our  discharged, we attended our  colleges and universities where we acquired our formal ‘credentials.’    And further, I am the author of six books on Chicano politics, and more so, we understand that our civic engagement is only of paramount importance to the political operatives, as well as the ‘grifters and grafters.’  As such, we are experts for being on the receiving end of Pander, writ large.

    And of course my purpose  of this text is to express my Tip of the Hat to Marcy for her well-done effort.  And more so, to ask Marcy to author a comprehensive article on the Trump-Putin relationship that is founded on Cohen’s behavior  and which encapsulates the “players” in Trump’s ongoing fiasco.  And needless to say but I will, we, here in our wonderful Sonoran Desert have  taken to calling President Trump the El Trumpudo and which is indicative of “all mouth and no brain.”

  55. punaise says:

    From the soundtrack of Meet Me in Prague:

    clang, clang, clang
    went the troll, he
    ping, ping, ping
    went the cell
    zing, zing, zing
    went my heartstrings
    as we started
    towards hunting down hell

    chug, chug, chug
    went the Mueller
    chump, Trump, chump
    raised the stakes
    thump, thump, thump
    went my heartstrings
    as we glided
    for hunting down fake

  56. Alan says:


    I use an app called “Signal Info” on my android to see the towers that my phone actually connects to (it doesn’t tell which ones it has “pinged” however). IMO, this story is thinly sourced and is a 50-50 proposition at best, which basically means it adds no reliable info to what we know, only speculation. If however a phone did leave a geo-trace, IMO it would most likely come from (a) incurring a roaming charge that left a billing footprint (via credit card or charge to the cellular account with the home carrier); (b) sending or receiving a call or a txt msg; or (c) an app logging its location with a server, like google maps or a fitbit-type app.

  57. Alan says:

    Regarding Cohen’s public statements that he’s never been to Prague and Mueller knows everything, it could also be that Cohen has genuinely seen the light and is saying “Hey, good guys, don’t get too far out in front of this story because it isn’t true–just wait for Mueller, he knows everything.”

    • Rugger9 says:

      Cohen admitted to David Corn of Mother Jones that he had been in Prague 14 years ago, which is not the same thing as never having been there.  I understand it is a very unforgettable town.

      • Rugger9 says:

        The quid pro quo seems to be that Cohen fixes the MSM gaze on the dossier with all of the investigation value of “Weekly World News” so no one dives too deeply into the question of the phone being in Prague.  The price is a pardon from Kaiser Quisling.

        So, let’s say Cohen is right and he wasn’t in Prague, but his phone was on someone who needed to have the deniability for even being present to talk to Soviets Russians about tradeoffs.  I think that list is very short, i.e. Junior, Jarvanka, Parscale, maybe Stone and I think the tidbit about Junior’s fondness for Czech things is interesting if not fully definitive.  It can’t be Page (who I’m sure knew he’d be on the FISA radar) or Papadopoulos, it had to be someone with enough power in the campaign to take the meeting with the ability to cut a preliminary deal and Manafort was already out.  While the dossier talk is wasted time, the phone details are not because someone appears to have been there for the Trump campaign to do something.  My bet is Junior (on stupidity grounds, and Eric is too far gone) or Parscale to get and give specific targeting.  Jarvanka is more Middle East in their outlook, I think.

        The Mueller subpoena is also interesting about which bank it is because that would peel away several layers like the Panama Papers did.  My frontrunner is Alfa, tied to Vlad, but it also may be via the Bank of Cyprus or some entity tied to MBS.  No one else really has enough scratch to supply the Palace and also be willing to look the other way (which rules out DB because Merkel would enforce the subpoena).

        • Michelle says:

          Alfa Bank: not state-owned

          Bank of Cyprus: not state-owned

          Deutsche Bank: not state-owned

          the company in question has to have over 50% ownership by a foreign government

  58. Willis Warren says:

    I’m skeptical about the “Mueller knows everything” tweets, as they’re profoundly douchey.  I’m not saying Cohen couldn’t possibly be cooperating, I’m just skeptical

  59. P J Evans says:

    Except that Cohen previously told an interviewer about having been in Prague in the 2000-2002 period.

  60. P J Evans says:

    I think that “ping” in the context used by the McClatchy story may be similar to the ham radio phrase “kerchunking the receiver”.

  61. Rusharuse says:


    Lawyer readers/contributors, time to put you money where your mouth is: Dem house committees hiring now . .
    “Along with the House Judiciary Committee, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is also on the hunt for more lawyers. The job posting reported by CNN said that the committee was looking for “executive branch investigative counsel.”
    Representative Elijah Cummings, the incoming chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has already sent 51 letters to the White House, Congress and other federal agencies requesting full compliance with the committee’s requests.”

  62. Trip says:

    Exclusive: Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch

    When the U.S. government put out its latest sanctions list on Dec. 19, the man named at the top did not seem especially important. Described in the document as a former Russian intelligence officer, he was accused of handling money and negotiations on behalf of a powerful Russian oligarch. The document did not mention that the man, Victor Boyarkin, had links to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump…Boyarkin says it fell to him to collect the debt from Manafort. “I came down on him hard,” he says. But the American proved elusive. In a petition filed in the Cayman Islands in 2014, lawyers for Deripaska, a metals tycoon with close ties to the Kremlin, complain that Manafort and his then-partner had “simply disappeared” with around $19 million of the Russian’s money.


    In 2007, he told the Financial Times, “I don’t separate myself from the state. I have no other interests.”

  63. Toadvine says:

    Hi. Long-time lurker, first time posting.

    This I don’t get:


    December 28, 2018 at 10:51 am 

    Trip is right, it is a great analogy. That said, I STILL do not get the obsession, by anybody, with the fucking Dossier. It is a diversionary talking point. And a diversion that should be avoided.”

    If my neighbor – who follows sports in great detail, but could care less about politics – hears about Cohen, and Prague, and says, “Hey, maybe that Steele Dossier was onto something?” – is that a bad thing? To be avoided?

    • bmaz says:

      If your neighbor thinks the “Dossier” is central to any legal point or investigation, then, yes, that is a bad thing.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      It’s like someone asks, “What happened with that 911 call?”

      “Well, it was right about some stuff and wrong about some other stuff, but it turned into this big investigation, and there’s been a trial and several guilty pleas.”

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      I just watched Seder’s theorizing and I am convinced that the corruption and  “business” commissions taken by Federal law enforcement and security agents and agencies over the last 50+ years have provided enough “kompromat” to the Kremlin to explain how and why our politics have been so fubar since 1968. The entire rotten history of Trump and the Russians can’t be understood without understanding the involvement of federal security and law enforcement in this country. And that’s why the entire festering story must come out.

  64. Ewan says:

    I completely agree that the spy file is somewhat irrelevant. The previous Russian investments in Trump Organization are probably not. Let me explain what I mean with an analogy

    Suppose a wealthy woman (WW) wishes to divorce her husband (H) on the basis of adultery with a bible saleswoman (BSW) — assuming for the sake of the argument that this is the way for WW to divorce without paying settlement to H. H claims there was no such promiscuous relationship.  WW’s investigator find out that for one week in  August, BSW came to the house during the day, after the wealthy spouse had left for work, stayed an inordinate amount of time etc.. H and his lawyer fight every step of the way against the evidence of that week, arguing against the dashcam footage from the neighbour that recorded the BSW coming and going, phone records showing they called each other etc. When it comes to trial, however, H presents a completely different defense. He has known BSW for years, they are very good friends, they met at a bible study group, and the gossip of the neighbours about H & BSW that alerted WW in the first place is actually evidence that this friendly relationship is completely well known and above board. H argues that in fact it is WW who is trying to get rid of him probably for some new romantic interest.

    Back in the real world, the reason for this analogy, is that the evidence of collusion could possibly be seriously dampened is Trump argues that in fact he has been, for professional reasons, dealing with Russians for years and everyone knows about it — just like he said that everyone knew about Trump Tower Moscow, except that in this case, Eric Trump in the past has bragged about the amount of Russian dollars funding the Trump Organization.

    My point being: unless the earlier Russian business is properly elucidated, it could, maybe, come in Trump’s defense.

    • Alan says:

      “There was no contact”, “There was no collusion”, “I was just joking”, “Collusion is not a crime”, and soon “Everyone knew about it?”  I think they’re running out of excuses…

  65. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A history of dealings between Trump-the-private bidnessman and Russian oligarchs-cum-govt officials would not affect the case of Trump-the-candidate or president conspiring with those same people to defraud the USG.

    The argument that “everyone knows about it” goes no further, not with a guy who makes everyone from his hairdresser and clothier to his mistresses to everyone in his White House sign one of Michael Cohen’s non-disclosure agreements.

  66. Mark Ospeck says:

    None of that rules out the McClatchy report that Cohen was in Prague. If Cohen was in Prague, Mueller might well want to keep that secret.

    Agree.  But then we’re playing with dynamite here,  since the way the Steele dossier informants describe the details of the Cohen Prague trip–the whole thing basically amounts to straight up treason.  So I just ask the begged question: what if Mueller told Cohen to use his natural God-given skills to lie and dissemble about his trip?

  67. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    You gotta be careful around here about using the “T” word though most folks including me use it in the colloquial meaning of that word not the legal one. I believe that the actions of Gen. Flynn, Paul Manafort and Trumpty Dumpster including the sharing of state secrets and operational information with a foreign adversary constitute treason and have probably caused the deaths of people. Con fraud US should blanket ’em all though but we do need to begin to speak to the real national security consequences of this entire rolling coup.

  68. Rugger9 says:

    The question I don’t know the answer to on the phone (which Michelle didn’t address above) in Prague is whether it was one of the ones seized by Mueller’s investigators. If it was it was at least a “company phone” managed by Michael Cohen, and since he wouldn’t be where it was there was a veil of secrecy in addition to the false trail leading to Cohen and going cold there.

    Let’s review: the phone pinged in Prague, but who had it is the question of the day. If it was a Trump Organization phone, it would provide a direct link to Kaiser Quisling, despite the Michael Cohen firewall, due to the statements made that KQ approved all activities related to the campaign. My guess is if it wasn’t Cohen it was Junior or Parscale in Prague. Does anyone have evidence of their movements?

    • Alan says:

      or, Let’s Really Review: someone wants us to talk about Cohen’s phone pinging in Prague. Who, why and is it true? One clue I think is the conspicuous appearance of the letter P, which directly implicates Big Bird, Elmo, or Bert and Ernie…

  69. Toadvine says:

    December 29, 2018 at 4:12 pm
    It’s like someone asks, “What happened with that 911 call?”

    “Well, it was right about some stuff and wrong about some other stuff, but it turned into this big investigation, and there’s been a trial and several guilty pleas.”

    Trout – this is a good response. Bmaz’ response, I think, expects too much rigor from people who aren’t digging in the weeds on this. Which, I expect, is most people

  70. e.a.f. says:

    sometimes the phone is more important than the person. the person receiving the call is only looking for a specific number.

    My guess is Mueller does know what went on and isn’t sharing and Cohen, as I interpret his tweet, is saying as much.

    We shall all wait. Happy New Year!

  71. David K. Peers says:

    Isn’t Michael Isikoff like one of your iconic liberal heroes? Yes, yes he is.

    What did he say about Steele’s bogus dossier? Type it with me, he said when you look at it closely none of it holds up, none of it will likely ever be proven to be true. And it was his (Clinton planted) article that was used to trick the FISA court into granting level 1 surveillance on Carter Page. Isikoff knows of what he types. So you know this totally dismisses Steele’s doc allegation of Cohen in Prague, right? And you have noticed in Mueller’s final sentencing summation on Cohen’s crimes, Prague didn’t come up?

    There’s a lot of misspent energy here, go do something good with it.


  72. hollywood says:

    I have asked several times now (without getting a posting) what is up with Justice Roberts grabbing the state-owned entity subpoena issue. What gives? What are the possible outcomes?

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