Just two days after Christmas, yet another bombshell detonated in the hunt for evidence of how far Russia went to hack the 2016 elections. McClatchy Washington Bureau reported that signals from the cell phone of Donald Trump’s lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, bounced off towers in Prague sometime in late August or early September of 2016.
Now why does this matter? Well, around the same time, a European intelligence agency picked up chatter between two Russians–one of whom mentioned Cohen was in the Czech capital. Additionally, Christopher Steele’s dossier claimed Cohen came to Prague in order to hobnob with Kremlin operatives about ways to hide the growing “liaison” between Trump and the Kremlin.
Cohen adamantly denies having ever set foot in Prague at any point in his 52 years on this planet–even though special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that suggests otherwise. All of this would seemingly bolster the growing evidence that there was indeed collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
But you wouldn’t know it if you believed one of Trump’s staunchest religious right defenders, American Family Radio afternoon drive-time host Bryan Fischer. Like nearly all Trump diehards, Fischer is convinced that Mueller has spent the last two years on a taxpayer-funded “Democrat WITCH HUNT”–and no amount of evidence to the contrary has convinced them.
So it should come as no surprise that when this story broke, Fischer somehow concluded this story said the opposite of what it strongly implied.
Fischer seems to share a trait with Trump–finding creative ways to get a lot wrong in 280 characters or less. This tweet is no different.
For one thing, Fischer managed to yank the sentence about Mueller having yet to charge anyone with collusion several light years out of context. Yes, no one has been directly charged with collusion. But anyone who has followed this story would know that there is an awful lot of circumstantial evidence that points in one unmistakable direction–collusion. And anyone who has followed this story knows that Mueller isn’t chasing after an imaginary animal. He’s on the hunt for evidence of a very real criminal conspiracy.
For another thing, as former intelligence agent John Schindler noted in August, there were at least two Russian spies at the now-infamous meeting at Trump Tower. The lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is a self-admitted Kremlin informant, and was also involved in an attempt to turn a Swiss corruption investigator. The lobbyist at that meeting, Rinat Akhmetshin, was a longtime agent with the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency–and Vladimir Putin has made clear that there is no such thing as a former Russian intelligence agent.
Even without the taint of espionage, there is literally no good-faith reason for senior campaign operatives to be meeting with representatives of a hostile foreign power. At least one person in the room, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, had been in politics long enough that he should have known the meeting was improper at best.
We also know that in April, Mueller released a heavily-redacted memo from his then-nominal superior, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which laid out the scope of his authority. That memo stated that delving into Manafort’s lobbying work for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians was a natural outgrowth of any investigation into potential collusion with Russia.
By releasing that memo, Mueller effectively told the American people that he believes Manafort indeed colluded with Russia. That’s not a snipe hunt. That’s a seasoned federal prosecutor doing what any competent prosecutor would do.
We also know that when Cohen came to his senses and pleaded guilty, he admitted having information about “certain discrete Russia-related matters” gleaned through his contact with Trump Organization officials. He also admitted meeting with a Putin confidant about the prospect of generating “political synergy” with the Trump campaign. If the personal lawyer for a presidential candidate playing footsie with a Russian confidant doesn’t at least raise the appearance of collusion, what does?
Add it up, and the kindest explanation for Fischer’s tweet is that he knows the bulk of his audience will take him at his word. Remember, the bulk of American Family Radio’s audience lives in a bubble where it and other hard-right Christian radio outlets are considered primary news sources. Anyone who has followed this travesty closely would know that Fischer is blowing crystal meth smoke.
But even if you believe that Mueller is serving the nation a huge nothing burger, it still looks like there is DNA-level evidence that Cohen was indeed in Prague. And that’s a very big problem for Cohen even if there was no collusion.
The reason for that should be obvious. But apparently Fischer is too dense to figure that out or has had too much covfefe for comfort, so I spelled it out for him.
That’s right, folks. There is literally no good-faith reason for Cohen to lie about whether or not he was in Prague. Even if that reason isn’t Russia-related, unless Cohen has an explanation for that tower data, he could get racked up for perjury. And that alone would be enough to torpedo any deal Cohen has worked out with Mueller–along with any chance of Cohen getting out of prison before his hair goes completely gray.
So at best, in his quest to accuse Mueller of embarking on a snipe hunt, Fischer has put himself in the position of defending a guy who is very likely a perjurer. Even allowing for the fact that Fischer and other fundies only seem to think perjury is a crime when you’re lying about an affair, the fact this is the best-case scenario is a very, very bad look.
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