Erik Prince, the billionaire head of mercenary firm Blackwater, admitted on Friday to attending a Trump Tower meeting with
Prince, the Republican donor and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, publicly acknowledged taking part in the meeting for the first time even though he told Congress in 2017 that he had no ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ role with the Trump campaign.
The meeting was significant since it represents the first time that a country other than
Erik Prince, the CEO of private security contractor Blackwater, acknowledged in an interview which aired on Al Jazeera on Friday that he took part in a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with top Trump campaign officials and representatives of Saudi Arabia and UAE
Prince did not disclose the meeting to Congress during his testimony in November 2017. The meeting included Donald Trump Jr (left) and George Nader (right). Nader is a Lebanese-American businessman who was acting as an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the Emiratis
In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Prince said he had no ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ role in the campaign except for putting up a ‘yard sign’ and writing ‘papers.’
But he was forced to admit in an interview with
During the interview on Al Jazeera’s Head to Head program, Prince admitted: ‘We were there … to talk about Iran policy.’
The presenter, Mehdi Hasan, then noted that Prince’s statement contradicted what he told Congress during his testimony on November 30, 2017.
Prince responded that the discrepancy was likely to due to problem with Congress’ transcription.
Hasan then noted that Prince could be legally exposed to criminal charges from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has indicted a number of Trump associates for making false statements to investigators and to Congress.
Prince was asked why he didn’t disclose the meeting to Congress.
Initially, he said he ‘disclosed any meetings, the very, very few.’
When pressed further, Prince said: ‘I don’t believe I was asked that question.’
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been gathering evidence related to possible attempts by foreign countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, to assist the Trump campaign. Trump Tower, where the meeting took place, is seen in the stock image above
Prince then contradicted himself again, saying he did inform Congress of the meeting.
‘I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong,’ he said.
Lying to Congress leaves one vulnerable to charges of perjury, which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted.
Prince added that he believed ‘not all of the discussion that day was transcribed’ and that he ‘remembers’ talking about the meeting with ‘investigators.’
It included George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who was acting as an emissary to both the Saudis and the UAE.
Nader reportedly told Don Jr that the ruling royals in those countries were eager to see his father win the election, according to
Nader was reportedly interested in using private military contractors to destabilize Iran.
The meeting also included Stephen Miller, who was an advisor to the campaign and is now a top White House aide, and Joel Zamel, an Israeli social media expert.
Zamel’s company, Psy-Group, employs former Israeli intelligence operatives, whose specialty is to manipulate social media.
Nader reportedly paid Zamel upwards of $2million for his services after Trump won the election, according to the Times.
Cyprus-based Psy-Group reportedly worked on a proposal for a ‘covert multimillion-dollar online manipulation campaign’ to help Trump, utilizing thousands of fake social media accounts, the Times report said.
Rick Gates, a Trump campaign official, reportedly contacted Psy-Group to seek the company’s help.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Donald Trump Jr, said last May: ‘Prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel.
‘They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy.
‘He was not interested and that was the end of it.’
An attorney for Zamel, Marc L. Mukasey, told the Times: ‘Neither Joel Zamel, nor any of his related entities, had any involvement whatsoever in the U.S. election campaign.
Project Rome was presented to the Trump campaign team
In the above document created by Psy-Group, Trump was code-named ‘Lion’ and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, was ‘Forest’. One goal of the firm was to gather information about Clinton and her ’10 closest associates’.
Cyprus-based Psy-Group reportedly worked on a proposal for a ‘covert multimillion-dollar online manipulation campaign’ to help Trump, utilizing thousands of fake social media accounts, The New York Times reported
‘The D.O.J. clarified from Day 1 that Joel and his companies have never been a target of the investigation.
‘My client provided full cooperation to the government to assist with their investigation.’
Nader’s attorney, Kathryn Ruemmler, told the Times: ‘Mr. Nader has fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation and will continue to do so.’
Saudi Arabia denied that Nader was authorized to speak for the kingdom.
This is not the first time that Prince has reportedly been caught making inaccurate statements to authorities linked to Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Last April, a witness who was interviewed Mueller’s investigators told a different account of a mysterious Seychelles meeting in January 2017 involving Prince than the one Prince testified about to a committee.
The meeting had already drawn attention from investigators because of the way it brought together Prince, representatives of the UAE, and a Russian oligarch just days before Donald Trump took office.
A top Democrat has said Prince may have been trying to establish a back channel to Russia, which he denies.
Among the claims Prince made when he testified under oath before the House Intelligence Committee is that he met coincidentally with the oligarch, Kirill Dmitriev, ‘over a beer.’
That encounter followed his meeting with United Arab Emirates officials, who arranged the meeting with Prince, who said he was there for business reasons.
‘So, as I recall, I met him, this same guy I talked about, Kirill Dmitriev. Met him down in the bar after dinner, and we talked for 30 minutes over a beer, and that was it,’ he said.
But Nader, who has been interviewed by Mueller’s team several times, said the Emiratis wanted to introduce a Russian close to the Kremlin to someone who was close to the incoming administration, according to
Sources told the network Nader met with Prince at the Pierre hotel in New York in advance of the Seychelles get-together, which took place Jan. 11 in the Pacific nation.
He also sent biographical information to Prince about the meeting – which might suggest something other than a chance encounter.
Prince (seen above before Congress in October 2007) is also drawing scrutiny from Special Counsel Robert Mueller over a mysterious January 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian oligarch. The meeting was held days before Trump took office
FANCY MEETING YOU HERE: The meetings occurred in the Seychelles before Trump took office
That information ‘noted that Dmitriev had been appointed by Putin to oversee the state-run sovereign wealth fund,’ the report said, citing sources.
Nader also says he attended the meetings, although Prince didn’t mention him when asked about other people who were there.
A Prince spokesman told ABC: ‘Erik has said all there is to say to the committee and has nothing further to add.’
Prince also testified that his purpose wasn’t to represent the Trump campaign in any way.
Nader was convicted of possession of child pornography, in a case that was unsealed just last month. He got arrested after getting caught with videos of minors engaged in explicit conduct. His lawyers have accused rivals of trying to discredit the Mueller probe.
He is a Lebanese-American businessman who has advised successive administrations and found himself negotiating arms deals, hostage situations, and Middle East allies and adversaries of the U.S.
He has appeared before a federal grand jury in addition to sitting for interviews with Mueller’s team.
Prince told Fox News: ‘I never ever have represented as anyone from the Trump transition, and the only reason I went to the Seychelles’ was to see UAE crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
‘No one from the Trump transition team knew I was going,’ he said.