This was hinted at in last night’s reports. But the Post has a story this evening suggesting not only that Erik Prince acted as an intermediary in a back channel between the Trump Transition but lied about it to congressional investigators. This goes back to that meeting in the Seychelles where emissaries from President-Elect Trump, Vladimir Putin and the government of the United Arab Emirates met in January, 2017. As the Post story relates, Prince told congressional investigators that he was there to meet with representatives of the UAE. The meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russia state investment fund, was simply a chance encounter. George Nader, Bob Mueller’s newly-cooperating witness, who was there at the meeting and who we discussed earlier, says thats not true. The meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of President-Elect Trump could meet an emissary from Moscow.
Here we have a familiar story. Prince appears caught conducting clandestine business, which may not be criminal in itself (you can meet people in the Seychelles) but may or may not be part of a broader criminal conspiracy. But here he may be caught not only in a lie but a highly material lie and perhaps one that is so clear-cut and designed to impede a lawful investigation that he can be prosecuted for it. That gives investigators a key hook with which to pry open more of the story.
Let’s not forget something we discussed earlier. FBI agents working for the special counsel pounced on George Nader and rapidly convinced him to become a cooperating witness. They also had warrants to confiscate his electronic equipment. Both facts suggest investigators already had major evidence of wrongdoing implicating Nader. What was the evidence and what was the wrongdoing?
Also, don’t forget: In addition to being the infamous founder of Blackwater, Prince is the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
The Post article and other reports suggest this Seychelles meeting was part of the effort over the course of the transition to open a backchannel between Trump and the Kremlin. The meeting was “around January 11” 2017. That is to say, 9 or 10 days prior to Trump’s inauguration.
This to me is the most tantalizing part of the whole story. Presidents don’t need back-channels to conduct discussions with foreign governments, though they sometimes use them in situations that require delicacy and deniability. What precisely was this backchannel for that it couldn’t wait 10 days? The answer seems pretty straightforwardly that someone was either in an extreme rush or that the backchannel was to transact business that had to remain secret from the US government. Given the urgency it seems that it needed to be hidden not just from the outgoing Obama administration (for which there might be some rationale) but from the entire apparatus of the US government which would report to President Trump and for which he would establish policy in just days?
That seems highly suspicious given what else was happening in 2016 and would continue into 2017 and beyond.