Mueller Reportedly Has Evidence Blackwater Founder Tried to Set Up a Trump-Putin Back Channel

Erik Prince has previously denied allegations of a scheduled meeting with a Russian close to the Kremlin.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee last November.Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Last April, the Washington Post reported that Blackwater founder Erik Prince had a secret meeting with a Russian close to Vladimir Putin to establish back channel communications between the Kremlin and then-President-elect Donald Trump in advance of the inauguration. Prince denied the allegations, but now, it sounds like special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence.

The Washington Post reports

In January 2017, Erik Prince, the founder of the private security company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations.

A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

George Nader, a Lebanese American business who helped organize and attended the Seychelles meeting, has testified on the matter before a grand jury gathering evidence about discussions between the Trump transition team and emissaries of the Kremlin, as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

Nader began cooperating with Mueller after he arrived at Dulles Airport in mid-January and was stopped, served with a subpoena and questioned by the FBI, these people said. He has met numerous times with investigators.

A spokesman for Prince “referred to his previous statements to the committee and declined further comment” when asked about the allegations by The Washington Post.

Prince, an outspoken Trump supporter whose sister, Betsy DeVos, serves as Trump’s education secretary, previously told the House Intelligence Committee that the meeting in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, who oversees a wealth fund controlled by the Russian government, was not planned and that he had been discussing business possibilities at a hotel with United Arab Emirates officials. The Washington Post reported last year that the secret meeting had been arranged by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and his brother, shortly after Zayed visited the United States, to “explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria.” 

Read the full story here.

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.