US special counsel probes Seychelles meeting with Russian

Isaac Cain
March 9, 2018

If this is true, Erik Prince, founder of private security company Blackwater, lied to lawmakers about the meeting being a chance encounter between Russian and US actors.

A witness, who has been cooperating with Mueller, told investigators the meeting was set up before the inauguration so someone from Trump's transition team could meet with a Moscow emissary, WaPo's report notes, which relies exclusively on unnamed sources.

Erik Prince, founder of military contractor Blackwater and a supporter of President Donald Trump, told U.S. lawmakers past year he had discussed U.S. -Russia relations during a meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian business executive with ties to the Kremlin. He specifically denied previous year that the meeting was arranged to set up a back channel of communication with the Kremlin. After the Seychelles meeting, Nader visited the White House several times, and met at least once there with Bannon and Kushner, these people said.

Nader also had long-time connections to Prince, and he reportedly introduced the security entrepreneur to Dmitriev. One person described Nader as an important witness in Mueller's efforts - one who has spoken repeatedly to investigators since his arrival in the United States.

While the episodes likely do not amount to witness tampering, Trump's insistence on approaching Mueller's witnesses about their testimony could give the appearance that he's attempting to interfere. Since then, he has been talking to Mueller's investigators and providing information to the grand jury.

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Nader - and the Seychelles meeting - are also of interest to Mueller's team as it examines whether any foreign money or assistance fueled the Trump campaign, and how Trump officials during the transition and early days of the administration communicated with foreign officials, particularly Russians.

Prince could not be reached for comment.

While there is no indication that Nader is suspected of wrongdoing, his knowledge of key meetings involving the Emiratis and others could be helpful to the special counsel in understanding the inner workings of the transition and possible efforts to influence key figures in the administration.

The UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russian Federation could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective, according to U.S. European and Arab officials. According to the Times, Emirati officials believed the American and the Russian were representing their respective presidents.

Based on information it has gathered, Mueller's office claimed that the meeting between Prince and Dmitriev had in fact been premeditated, and was meant to coordinate an eventual meeting between a representative of Trump's transition team and a Russian Federation emissary.

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