Since the publication of an unverified 35-page dossier alleging that President Donald Trump’s associates conspired with foreign agents to help influence November’s election, one mystery has endured:
Did Trump’s longtime personal lawyer travel to Prague for a secret meeting with Russians?
Michael Cohen has repeatedly denied it. But one of his first responses in the wake of the allegations — tweeting a photograph of his passport cover — was widely criticized for failing to prove anything since it didn’t reveal the stamps inside.
So BuzzFeed News asked to see the inside pages. He said yes. We have pictures.
The passport shows Cohen has traveled the globe since 2009, the year the document was issued. There is no stamp showing Cohen visited the Czech Republic.
“Nope. Never been,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that he had visited Prague once before, in 2001.
The stamps indicate he traveled abroad at least four times in 2016: twice to London, once to St. Maarten, and once to Italy in July. The Italian trip is the most intriguing, because it places Cohen in what’s known as the Schengen Area: a group of 26 European countries, including the Czech Republic, that allows visitors to travel freely among them without getting any additional passport stamps.
Upon entering the Schengen Area, visitors get a rectangular stamp with the date, a country code, their port of entry, and a symbol showing how they entered — such as an airplane or a train. In Cohen’s passport, that mark appears on page 17, with a date of July 9. The mark is too faint to be fully legible. The exit stamp, similar but with rounded edges, is also light, but the letters “cino” are legible, indicating he flew out of Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport in Rome. That stamp is dated July 17.
Cohen, 50, said he understands the scrutiny this will bring. He said credit card receipts would prove he stayed in Capri, an island off the Italian coast, but he declined to make those receipts available. Cohen was with family and friends, he said, including the musician and actor Steve Van Zandt. Van Zandt did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The dossier claims that Cohen was dispatched to Prague to "clean up the mess" left behind by two revelations: that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort had a financial relationship with a politically toxic Ukrainian president and that campaign adviser Carter Page visited top Russian officials. Cohen’s meeting with "Kremlin representatives" was alleged to have taken place in "August/September 2016" — not quite the same time frame as those passport stamps.
Many news organizations attempted to verify or debunk claims in the dossier, including that Cohen was in Prague around that time. A BuzzFeed News reporter spent three days visiting about 45 hotels in the city and found no evidence Cohen had stayed in any of them during that period.
Cohen has said that he couldn’t have been in Prague because he was visiting the University of Southern California with his son on a college baseball recruiting trip. He posted a photograph from his daughter’s social media account showing the two of them together in Los Angeles on the final week of August.
Further complicating matters is the fact that there is no way to prove, just by looking at someone’s passport, that the person does not also have a second passport, with a different set of stamps. The State Department allows second passports in some circumstances, such as when a stamp from one country would prevent a traveler from entering another. Those records are not public, a State Department official said.
Cohen denied having a second passport.
"This is my only one," he said.
Cohen, a Trump confidant for the past decade, says the dossier’s claims about him are bogus and that he has never met with Russian agents. “I have yet to see a single piece of evidence or a single document corroborating anything about me from that dossier other than wild speculation and conspiracy theories,” he said.
Regarding the three other 2016 stamps in his passport, Cohen said he visited London twice, where his daughter is studying: once in October for a birthday party and again in November for Thanksgiving. He said he vacationed in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten in January.
BuzzFeed News reviewed every page of Cohen’s passport and was allowed to photograph all but two: the first inside page, since that includes personal information, such as the passport number, and the last stamped page, showing a visa for Kazakhstan in 2014 that also includes personal information. Cohen explained that trip was on behalf of the Trump Organization, which was considering a development project in the Central Asian country. Some of the stamps are not legible.
Altogether, Cohen’s passport shows he has visited at least a dozen countries during the last eight years: St. Maarten, England, Scotland, St. Barthélemy, France, Italy, Anguilla, Georgia, Turkey, Hong Kong, Macau, and Kazakhstan.
Below are annotated photographs showing some of the stamps.
Anthony Cormier is an investigative reporter/editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. While working for the Tampa Bay Times, Cormier won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact Anthony Cormier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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