So was Erik Prince working for the Trump team to set up a back-channel of communication with Moscow?
Tuesday night I told you about George Nader, the Lebanese-American businessman with all the hot contacts. Nader was at the Seychelles meeting between Blackwater founder (and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother), Erik Prince, and Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian official close with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Prince has previously testified that the meeting in Seychelles was by chance, and brief. He also denied that there was any attempt to set up back-channel communication between the incoming Trump administration and Moscow.
The news on Tuesday was that Nader was cooperating with the Mueller investigation, so what is he telling?
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators that the meeting was set up in advance, apparently contradicting what Erik Prince, the founder of the security contractor formerly known as Blackwater, has told lawmakers about the meeting.
The witness (Nader) didn’t just happen to be in attendance when the meeting happened. He set it up.
This all contradicts what Prince told the House Intelligence Committee in 2017.
The NYT version of the Seychelles meeting adds new significance to this exchange during Erik Prince's congressional testimony.
He had insisted news accounts of the meeting were "fabricated" — until he seemed to slip and acknowledge the existence of a transcript. pic.twitter.com/XVr3jhDhF8
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) March 7, 2018
And while the White House is denying Prince has ever served any role with the Trump White House, Prince is a Trump supporter, has donated to his campaign, and has, according to the WaPo report, presented himself as an “unofficial envoy” for the Trump team.
But Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates’s de facto ruler, has reportedly become a key witness for Mueller’s team as they examine the possible influence of foreign money in the Trump campaign and in White House policymaking.
Mueller is tasked with investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and whether members of the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow to influence and disrupt the presidential race. His mandate, however, also allows him to investigate any other issues that may arise out of the Russia probe.
That “any other issues” part is what has Trump devotees all wee-wee’d up. Mueller was given the Russia probe as a focus, but if he finds anything else corrupt or out of order, he has the authority to pull on those threads, as well.
That could cover a lot of ground.