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Longtime Trump Lawyer Denies Allegations In Infamous Dossier

Donald Trump's long-serving personal lawyer issued a sweeping denial of allegations in a dossier that claims he played a pivotal role in a purported covert relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election.

Michael Cohen delivered that rejection as congressional investigators and Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller forge ahead with their probes into Russia's interference in last year's presidential race.

Those investigations are looking into possible collusion between the Trump camp and the Kremlin.

"Mr. Cohen vehemently denies the claims made in the dossier about him, which are false and remain wholly unsubstantiated," Cohen's attorney, Stephen Ryan, writes in an eight-page letter to the House Intelligence Committee.

NPR obtained a copy of the letter.

"We have not uncovered a single document that would in any way corroborate the dossier's allegations regarding Mr. Cohen, nor do we believe that any such document exists," Ryan writes.

Ryan urged the panel to determine — and make public —who paid for the 35-page dossier, which was compiled by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, over the summer and fall of 2016. Steele was commissioned by an American political research firm, Fusion GPS.

Fusion GPS was initially hired by Republican donors to conduct what is called "opposition research" on Trump — uncovering damaging secrets that could be used in political attacks.

Democratic clients later picked up the tab for the material after the real estate tycoon became the GOP nominee. The clients' identities are not public.

U.S. intelligence officials included a summary of the unsubstantiated dossier in an annex to a January briefing for President Barack Obama and then-President-elect Trump.

Then-FBI Director James Comey, who had received the dossier from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he believed Trump needed to know about the allegations and that the material was in the hands of journalists who might publicize it.

Not long after, BuzzFeed News published a full copy of the report online. Trump denied the dossier's allegations.

NPR has not detailed what it includes because the material is unverified. In general terms, the document describes a relationship between Trump's camp and the Russian government and includes material that, if legitimate, might have been used to blackmail Trump.

Since the material surfaced, U.S. intelligence officials have declined to say whether they have substantiated or debunked anything in the file — only that they did not use it in concluding that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen is one of the figures in Trump's orbit described in the dossier. In his statement to Congress, Cohen's lawyer goes point by point through 13 allegations made against his client, including a claim that in August 2016 in Prague, in the Czech Republic, Cohen met with Russian government officials or people acting on Moscow's behalf.

Cohen has never traveled to the Czech capital, the letter says, for meetings with Russians or otherwise.

Cohen's attorney also denies that he held a key role coordinating an alleged secret back-channel relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia, saying that Cohen is "not aware" of any such ties and that he "did not play any role in this fictitious relationship."

Ryan argues the House Intelligence Committee members looking into the Russia story shouldn't believe anything they read.

"We do not believe that the committee should give credence to or perpetuate any of the dossier's allegations relating to Mr. Cohen unless the committee can obtain independent and reliable corroboration of those allegations, which we do not believe exists," the letter says.

And Ryan also argues there is no reason to ask any more questions about this.

Based on Cohen's answers to the allegations, the letter adds, "We do not believe that an interview or testimony concerning these allegations is warranted."

Earlier this week, Cohen provided a cache of documents to Congress, including a statement in which he acknowledges sending an email in January 2016 to Russian President Vladimir Putin's personal spokesman trying to enlist his help with a stalled real estate deal in Moscow.

Cohen denied that the proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, which was to include a luxury hotel, office and residential condominium, was related to Trump's presidential campaign, and he said that he never heard back from Putin's spokesman.

The Trump Organization ultimately abandoned the proposal, Cohen said, for business reasons.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dimitry Peskov, confirmed to reporters in Moscow this week that a Cohen email was sent to the general email address for his office. He said that real estate issues were not part of his job and that he did not respond.

Still, Cohen's outreach shows that the Trump Organization was trying to contact Russian officials about business deals even as Trump was running for president.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.