Blackwater founder Erik Prince details meeting with Russian in Seychelles

Sergio Conner
December 7, 2017

Blackwater founder Erik Prince detailed to House Intelligence Committee investigators a January meeting he held with a Russian banker in the Seychelles that he said was unrelated to his support for the Trump campaign, according to a transcript of his closed-door interview released Wednesday.

Prince was questioned behind closed doors for almost four hours by the House Intelligence Committee on November 30 over a trip he took to the Seychelles on January 11, during which he met with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian wealth fund that has been under US sanctions since 2015.

Prince said that he didn't discuss sanctions with Dmitriev, or the prospect of doing business with him.

"The Emiratis I'd just met with previously said, there's an interesting guy from Russian Federation you should meet if you have any business in the commodity space, which I do", Prince told the committee.

There was no follow-up to the meeting with Dmitriev, he said.

Prince donated to Trump's campaign, made multiple visits to Trump Tower in NY and said he wrote some foreign policy memos for the Republican candidate, which he delivered to Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon.

He acknowledged that campaign strategist Stephen Bannon had told him about a December 2016 meeting between the Trump transition team and UAE officials, which reportedly annoyed the Obama administration at the time. Prince said Bannon vouched for MBZ during the conversation, calling him "a great guy". "That's all I recall of that conversation".

Prince also said that his trip to the Seychelles, which he said was to meet with UAE officials about business opportunities, did not have anything to do with Russian Federation. "I played no official or, really, unofficial role", he said of the campaign. Those meetings were similarly brief, he said.

As the meeting was ending, someone suggested he meet with Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian banker who was in the area, according to the testimony.

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Committee Democrats have characterized his answers as incomplete.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, said after the testimony was released that Prince had been less than forthcoming and sought to represent his meeting with Dmitriev as coincidental.

"I didn't fly there to meet any Russian guy", Prince said.

The meeting in the Seychelles was originally reported by The Washington Post. The meeting apparently lasted less than 30 minutes, enough time for Prince to drink one beer.

According to the newspaper, the UAE brokered the meeting "in part" to explore whether Russian Federation might be persuaded to back away from its relationship with Iran and Syria. The Post attributed its April story to U.S., European and Arab officials. But Prince declined to provide the committee with many specifics of his discussion with Bannon. "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck".

While the Washington Post, which broke the news of the meeting, reported that Prince presented himself as an "unofficial envoy for Trump", Prince testified that the principal objective of his visit to the island nation was an invitation to meet with members of the United Arab Emirates' royal family, one of whom casually suggested he meet with Dmitriev for a drink.

"That comes back to my concern about, what is the community going to do about unlawful leaking and the political abuse of the intelligence apparatus that affects Americans?" he said.

Prince also complained during his testimony about USA intelligence community spying on Americans, and so-called improper identifying or "unmasking" of Americans caught up in surveillance of foreigners.

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