House Panel to Make Criminal Referral for Trump Ally

In this Nov. 30, 2017, file photo, Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (CN) – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Tuesday that his panel will recommend an investigation into Blackwater founder and President Donald Trump ally Erik Prince for lying to Congress.

The California Democrat said during a Washington Post Live event that he will ask the Department of Justice to look into whether Prince lied to Schiff’s committee about a 2016 meeting in the island nation of Seychelles between Prince and Russian financier Kirill Dmitriev, who has close ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

Prince, who is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a Trump supporter, told lawmakers little about the meeting in closed-door congressional testimony, but Schiff and other House Democrats now believe the businessman misled their committee based on evidence included in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Prince said the meeting with Dmitriev, the chief executive of Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF, took place by chance and was not at all linked to the incoming Trump administration.  

But the Mueller report, released in a redacted form two weeks ago, said the meeting was actually set up by Prince with help from George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates and a business associate of Dmitriev.

“According to Nader, Prince had led him to believe that [Trump adviser Steve] Bannon was aware of Prince’s upcoming meeting with Dmitriev, and Prince acknowledged that it was fair for Nader to think that Prince would pass information on to the transition team,” the report states.

The report goes on to say Prince told Dmitriev that he “wielded influence with the incoming administration,” while Nader said Prince is “very well connected and trusted by the new team.”

It also says some of the language used by Prince during that meeting suggests it was of a political nature. He reportedly insulted the outgoing Obama administration and expressed his excitement for “a new era of cooperation and conflict resolution.”

The report detailed a second meeting between Prince and Dmitriev held shortly thereafter once the businessman learned the Russians had planned to move an aircraft carrier into Libyan waters, something Prince said would harm attempts to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia.  

It also mentions phone records showing text messages between Prince and Bannon but those messages were not found on either man’s cellphone during the Mueller investigation. Prince denied deleting them while Bannon could not explain their disappearance.

Schiff said Tuesday that Prince’s conflicting testimony could be subject to federal charges.  

“In very materials ways I think the evidence strongly suggests that he willingly misled our committee and the Justice Department needs to consider whether there’s a prosecutable case,” he said at the Washington Post event. “We know from the Mueller report that that was not a chance meeting… We know there were communications after he returned.”

The special counsel’s office did not charge any members or associates of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia in its election interference efforts.  

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