PRAGUE -- A Czech investigative journal quotes local intelligence officers as saying they have no evidence that a lawyer for President-elect Donald Trump traveled to the Czech capital last year, potentially dealing a blow to a claim at the center of an unverified text suggesting Russia had compromising materials on the billionaire developer.
The lawyer, Michael Cohen, has already dismissed reports that he met in Prague with Russian agents over possible influence on the 2016 presidential election, and said he has never been to the city.
A Czech intelligence source told the Respekt magazine that there is no record of Cohen arriving in Prague by plane, although the news weekly pointed out he could have traveled by car or train from a nearby EU country, avoiding passport control under Schengen zone travel rules.
"If there was such a meeting, he [Cohen] didn’t arrive in the Czech Republic by plane," the source said.
Another source told Respekt that Czech intelligence had not monitored any such meeting between Cohen or other Trump surrogates and Russian intelligence officers.
Trump has described the so-called kompromat story suggesting that Moscow had personal and financial dirt on him as "fake news" and criticized U.S. intelligence agencies for "allowing" the leak.
"Russia has never tried to use leverage over me," Trump tweeted on January 11, nine days before his inauguration as the 45th U.S. president, adding. "I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA -- NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"
Trump has dismissed the allegations as a "political witch hunt."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on January 11 that "the Kremlin has no compromising dossier on Trump" and that any claims to the contrary are "absolute fantasy."
The claims were part of a two-page synopsis appended to a report on alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, an appendix that was shared with outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, Trump, and eight Congressional leaders in briefings last week.
The potentially explosive allegations were said to have been compiled by an unnamed former British MI6 intelligence operative, and had not been thoroughly vetted.
U.S. media reports on the contents said Oleg Solodukhin, a representative of the Russian Center of Science and Culture in Prague, was alleged to have served as "an interlocutor" between Russian intelligence and the Trump team led by Cohen.
Soloduhkin denied any such meeting, telling Respekt he did not know Cohen.
In his tweet, Cohen stated that "between August 23–29 I was in Los Angeles."
The Czech Counterintelligence Agency (BIS) has declined to comment publicly on the matter, according to Respekt.
"We don’t plan on commenting on this whatsoever," BIS spokesman Jan Subrt said.