Erik Prince lied to somebody. The one query is who.
The unofficial Trump marketing campaign adviser testified below oath earlier than the Home Intelligence Committee in late 2017 a few assembly he had with Kirill Dmitriev, the top of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, within the Seychelles on January 11, 2017.
On the time, Prince described the assembly as an impromptu dialog on the resort bar the place the 2 males briefly chatted about overseas coverage and commodity costs earlier than parting methods.
Particular counsel Robert Mueller’s last report paints a unique image. The report, based mostly partially on interviews with Prince, describes the assembly not as a fast chat over a beer however as a deliberate rendezvous between emissaries of President Donald Trump’s staff and the Kremlin.
“We now have no remark to make,” Prince spokesperson Marc Cohen instructed ThinkProgress in response to an in depth listing of questions. “Erik has stated all there’s to say on this.”
A side-by-side comparability of Prince’s congressional testimony and the Mueller report exhibits no less than a dozen inconsistencies on six key factors:
Who launched Prince and Dmitriev,
What number of instances Prince and Dmitriev met in Seychelles,
Whether or not Prince acted on behalf of the Trump transition staff,
Whether or not Prince knew Dmitriev ran Russia’s sovereign wealth fund,
Whether or not Prince and Dmitriev mentioned a “again channel,” and
Whether or not Prince briefed then-senior Trump aide Steve Bannon on the assembly.
In response to arduous questions final month about one other a part of his congressional testimony, Prince first claimed with out proof that the official transcript of the testimony was incorrect, then stated not all of the dialog was transcribed.
“And that’s a truth,” Prince added.
Prince, 49, is greatest recognized for founding the private-security agency Blackwater, which grew to become notorious in the course of the top of the Iraq Struggle. However he has deep ties to the Trump administration. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is secretary of schooling, and he was a fixture at Trump Tower in the course of the presidential transition.
Prince’s congressional testimony means that he and Dmitriev, an in depth Putin ally, have been merely like-minded businessmen chatting over beers. However the Mueller report paints them as cutouts forging a secret backchannel between the Kremlin and Trump Tower.
Even when their assembly was banal, nonetheless, the inconsistencies between Prince’s congressional testimony and his statements to the particular counsel may land him in authorized peril. Mueller indicted former Trump aides Roger Stone and Michael Cohen for making false statements to Congress. Now, with the Mueller report in hand, Home Democrats are more and more flexing their oversight muscle mass.
Neither Bannon nor Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the Home Intelligence Committee, responded to requests from ThinkProgress. The particular counsel’s workplace declined to remark.
Who launched Prince and Dmitriev?
In his testimony to Congress, Prince stated he flew to the Seychelles to fulfill with Mohamed bin Zayed, crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, about potential enterprise collectively.
After their one-hour assembly, Prince stated that a member of bin Zayed’s entourage recommended he join with “this Russian man that offers in commodities” whereas he was on the town. Later that night time, Prince instructed Congress, he and Dmitriev talked briefly on the resort bar.
In keeping with the Mueller report, nonetheless, an previous enterprise affiliate, George Nader, recommended that Prince meet with Dmitriev on behalf of the Trump transition throughout a gathering in New York Metropolis on January three, 2017. Nader is a Lebanese-American businessman who acts as an adviser and emissary for bin Zayed. He continued to push Prince and Dmitriev to fulfill, finally establishing their dialog within the Seychelles.
What number of instances did Prince and Dmitriev meet within the Seychelles?
Prince instructed Congress he solely met Dmitriev as soon as, for 20 to 30 minutes, and hadn’t had any contact with him earlier than or since:
That isn’t true, in response to Mueller’s report. The particular counsel described two conferences between Dmitriev and Prince within the Seychelles on January 11, 2017. The primary, which lasted 30 to 45 minutes, came about in Nader’s villa. The second transient assembly was at a restaurant within the 4 Seasons Resort.
Was Prince appearing on behalf of the Trump transition staff?
This query goes to the center of why Congress and Mueller investigated the Seychelles assembly. Prince was an unofficial adviser to the Trump marketing campaign and transition staff, and he was particularly shut with Bannon. However he has lengthy maintained that he flew to the Seychelles as a personal citizen — not as an envoy or cutout for staff Trump.
That declare is undercut by what Prince and Nader instructed Mueller about how and why Nader arrange the assembly between Prince and Dmitriev.
Remarkably, Prince even instructed Dmitriev, on the finish of their first assembly in Nader’s villa, that he would transient Bannon on their assembly and that any follow-up would come immediately from the Trump transition staff:
Mueller describes Dmitriev’s frustration that Nader didn’t introduce him to somebody with extra authority throughout the incoming Trump administration, corresponding to a senior official quite than an unofficial emissary. However Dmitriev clearly believed that Bannon despatched Prince, as he instructed Rick Gerson, an affiliate of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, in a textual content message on January 18, 2017:
Bannon instructed the particular counsel’s workplace he knew nothing concerning the assembly.
Did Prince know Dmitriev ran Russia’s sovereign wealth fund?
All through his testimony to Congress, Prince referred to Dmitriev as a hedge fund CEO. Pressed by Reps. Francis Rooney (R-FL) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) on whether or not he knew that Dmitriev was truly CEO of the state-sponsored Russian Direct Funding Fund, which is below partial U.S. sanctions, Prince claimed ignorance:
However Nader despatched Prince a hyperlink to Dmitriev’s Wikipedia web page on January three, 2017, earlier than the Seychelles assembly, in response to the Mueller report. Archived copies present that the web page described Dmitriev as “a Russian businessman and CEO of the Russian Direct Funding Fund (RDIF), a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund created by the Russian authorities.”
Two days later, Nader despatched Prince a duplicate of Dmitriev’s bio, which Prince opened whereas at Trump Tower.
On his return from the Seychelles, Prince instructed Mueller, he briefed Bannon on the assembly and “defined that Dmitriev was the top of a Russian sovereign wealth fund.” Bannon denied that in an interview with the particular counsel’s workplace.
Did Prince and Dmitriev talk about a “again channel”?
This query will get to the center of Congress’ and Mueller’s curiosity within the Seychelles assembly. Prince instructed Congress that his assembly with Dmitriev was prompted by their shared curiosity in oil and mineral commodities. They spoke about U.S.-Russia relations, Prince stated, however solely as any non-public American and Russian businessmen may whereas chatting casually. He flatly denied discussing a “again channel” between the Kremlin and the Trump transition staff.
Mueller makes it clear, nonetheless, that Nader organized for the assembly between Prince and Dmitriev as a result of the Russian banker wished to fulfill members of the incoming administration on behalf of the Kremlin. And through their first assembly, Prince instructed Dmitriev that he may count on any follow-up to return immediately from the Trump transition staff. Prince made the same promise to Nader.
Did Prince transient Bannon about his assembly with Dmitriev?
Prince didn’t simply promise Dmitriev and Nader that he would transient Bannon concerning the assembly: In keeping with Mueller, he adopted via. Prince and Bannon met at Bannon’s dwelling in mid-January to debrief, Prince instructed the particular counsel’s workplace.
That contrasts sharply with the repeated assurances Prince gave Congress that he didn’t inform Bannon or anybody else on staff Trump about his assembly with Dmitriev:
Bannon instructed the particular counsel’s workplace that Prince by no means briefed him earlier than or after the assembly, and that he “would have objected to such a gathering happening.”
That is one query even Mueller and his staff couldn’t reply: Neither Prince nor Bannon had any textual content messages on their telephone from January 2017, regardless of exchanging dozens, and neither may clarify why the messages have been now not on their telephones.