Special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation Robert Mueller has gathered evidence that contradicts congressional testimony about a meeting in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean between Russian and Emirati officials, and an individual with ties to the Trump campaign, according to individuals familiar with the matter.
In January 2017, Eric Prince, founder of the private security company Blackwater, flew to the Seychelles to meet with officials from the United Arab Emirates to discuss potential business deals, he said. While there, according to Prince, a member of the Emirati delegation suggested he meet with a Russian businessman who was also in the Seychelles to meet with the Emiratis. The two, Prince says the Emirati told him, had the desire to do business in the oil and gas industries in common.
The businessman, Kirill Dmitriev is the head of a wealth fund controlled by the Russian government, and a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to Prince, the meeting was a chance encounter that last no more than thirty minutes.
Prince told the House Intelligence Committee in testimony last November that the two “chatted on topics ranging from oil and commodity prices to how much his country wished for resumption of normal trade relations with the USA.”
“I remember telling him that if Franklin Roosevelt could work with Joseph Stalin to defeat Nazi fascism, then certainly Donald Trump could work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islamic fascism,” Prince recalled.
According to reports however, Mueller has gathered evidence that the meeting was actually set up in advance so that the two could discuss relations between the two nations, and specifically, so that a backchannel of communication could be set up between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration.
George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who has been a player in political Washington since the 1980s, has reportedly been cooperating with the Mueller investigation since mid-January when he was stopped by authorities after arriving at Dulles International Airport in Washington, served with a subpoena and questioned by the FBI. According to authorities he has met numerous times with investigators.
Nader reportedly testified about the Seychelles meeting before a grand jury and has told Mueller that the Emirati’s didn’t make the introduction between Dmitriev and Prince. The meeting, he says, was preplanned.
A spokesman for Prince declined comment.
Nader had billed himself as a connected mediator between Washington and Mid-East governments on issues of both business and policy for decades. He and Prince have known each other since the mid-2000s when Prince once hired Nader to try and get Iraqi government contracts for Prince’s firm after the U.S. invasion of that country in 2003. The efforts were not successful according to Prince.
Nader, among others, has also been questioned about possible attempts by the Emirati government to buy political influence by directing funds to support President Trump during the presidential campaign.
Nader recently received a detailed report of a meeting between President Trump and a prominent Republican fundraiser, Elliot Broidy, that took place in the Oval Office last fall. The meeting was used to lobby President Trump about the virtues of a private military force made up of contractors being developed for the UAE, created by a company that Broidy owns.
Nader was also part of a meeting between Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and top White House adviser, and Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan during the presidential transition in December 2016. The Crown Prince broke protocol for that meeting, not informing U.S. officials of his trip. The Obama administration learned of the meeting only after U.S. intelligence officials reported it to them.
Prince has denied any official role with either with the Trump transition or the present administration, although he did hold meetings in Trump transition offices before the inauguration.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Prince contributed over $280,000 to the Trump campaign, the Republican Party and a pro-Trump super PAC in 2016. He is also the brother of current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.