Erik Prince, the former Navy SEAL who founded the controversial Blackwater mercenary operation based in North Carolina that was involved in murderous activity in Iraq that led to convictions of its operatives, met with a Russian operative days before Donald Trump’s inauguration in an attempt to set up a “back-channel” arrangement between the new President and Vladimir Putin.
The Washington Post Monday revealed the secret meeting in the Seychelles islands of the Indian Ocean on or around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump took office and reported Prince, with no “formal role” in the Trump transition team — offered himself as “an unofficial enjoy” for Trump through high ranking officials of The United Arab Emirates.
Prince told UAE Trump might be willing to make “major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions” if Russia curtailed it relationship with Iran and Syria.
FBI sources tell Capitol Hill Blue it is both aware of the clandestine meeting and is examining details of Prince and Trump’s involvement in what the agency sees as “an expanding web of connections” between Russia and Americans with ties to Trump along with whether or not the meeting violated federal laws concerning contacts with foreign governments before the new President had actually taken office.
“We are not aware of any meetings, and Erik Prince had no role in the transition,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer says. Prince, however, was seen in Trump Transition offices in New York.
“Erik had no role on the transition team,” a spokesman for Prince told the Post. “This is a complete fabrication. The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump. Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”
Prince, who sold Blackwater after it was found guilty of abuses in Iraq that included convictions for killing civilians in Iraq in 2007, now runs the Frontier Services Group, a new paramilitary empire based in Hong Kong. He is a strong financial backer of Trump and gave $250,000 to the new President’s campaign along with millions more to the Republican Party and a pro-Trump super PAC run by GOP “mega donor” Rebekah Mercer.
Prince is a close friend and confidant of Stephen K. Bannon, the former boss of Breitbart News and now Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor. He is also the brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education sister, and was seen in meetings of the Trump transition offices in December.
Prince fled America after his problems with Blackwater’s clandestine and criminal activities and now lives in the United Arab Emirates.
“He prefers to live on the edge,” a former Blackwater operative says of Prince. “He has no difficulty crossing the line if needed to achieve a goal.”
UAE officials say Prince led them to believe he “had the blessing” of Trump and the new administration when he approached them to help set up the meeting with the Russian in the Seychelles. The meeting came at a time when the FBI had the Trump team under close scrutiny because of questionable activities, including contacts between now former Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn, tired by Trump for lying to Vice President Mike Pence and others in the administration about such actions.
Barry Faure, Seychelles’ secretary of state for foreign of affairs, said “I wouldn’t be surprised at all” to learn of a clandestine meeting meeting between Prince and Russia.
“The Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media,” Faure told the Post. “That’s even printed in our tourism marketing. But I guess this time you smelled something.”
FBI contacts say Prince’s name surfaced frequently as “an outside adviser” to Trump and Bannon. The mercenary appeared frequently on Bannon’s radio show and was featured in articles on Breitbart News when Bannon ran the web site. Sources within the Trump administration confirmed Prince attended meetings in the transition team offices.
Prince also made “unfounded assertions” that claimed material recovered from the laptop of former Congressman Anthony Weiner of new York would implicate Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He also claimed that Huma Abedin, Weiner’s estranged wife and adviser to Clinton, was an “agent of influence very sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“Erik was a good source of dirt on Clinton,” says a former operative of the Trump campaign. “Even if untrue, his claims sounded good.”
UAE and Russia decided against future meetings involving Prince after the one in December.
“Too politically risky,” said one official.
Copyright © 2017 Capitol Hill Blue