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Schiff questions whether Erik Prince misled lawmakers about Seychelles meeting

Schiff questions whether Erik Prince misled lawmakers about Seychelles meeting
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is questioning whether Blackwater founder Erik Prince potentially misled lawmakers during his testimony last fall about the purpose of his 2016 meeting with a Russian official with ties to the Kremlin.

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE is looking into efforts by Prince to establish a “back channel” between the Trump administration and the Kremlin during a meeting in Seychelles that took place before President TrumpDonald John TrumpIG investigating Comey memos over classified information: report Overnight Defense: Congress poised for busy week on nominations, defense bill | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump administration appeals decision to block suspected combatant's transfer Top Pruitt aid requested backdate to resignation letter: report MORE took office, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. 

“That allegation if true would be very disturbing, considering that using Russian diplomatic facilities for a back channel would only be designed to hide those communications — not from the Russian government but from our own government,” Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes Top Dems demand answers from Trump over legality of Syria strikes New York seeks authority to prosecute despite presidential pardons MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday.

Schiff said he wants Prince to return for a second interview before the committee and turn over documents he initially pledged to provide.

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Prince told lawmakers investigating Russian interference in November that he met with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund under U.S. sanctions since 2015, in an informal and somewhat impromptu manner, according to a transcript of his closed-door interview released last year.

“It was a matter of, ‘Hey, while you’re here, there’s a Russian guy that we’ve done some business with in the past, and it’d be interesting for you to meet him,’ ” Prince told investigators at the time.

The private security executive maintained that the real reason for his trip was to briefly meet with Emirati officials to discuss terrorism in the area as well as “conceptual-only stuff” on mineral-related business. He said the work was all unrelated to his support for the Trump campaign.

Prince described his involvement with the Trump campaign as both a donor and supporter who would occasionally write policy papers, dismissing that he had served the campaign in an official capacity.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that an adviser to the then-leader of the United Arab Emirates, who is cooperating with investigators, gave testimony to a grand jury last week as part of Mueller’s probe.

The cooperator, George Nader, also reportedly attended the Seychelles meeting. He is seen as a key witness who could offer fresh testimony about the circumstances surrounding the meeting.

Schiff, who also wants Nader to testify before the committee, said the Post's report and Prince’s testimony cannot both be true.

“If those reports aren't accurate, there is clearly a significant discrepancy between that version and what we heard in Erik Prince's testimony. Which is accurate? I don’t know and we should find out. Clearly, both can’t be true. It either was a back channel or it wasn’t."

After the November interview, Schiff characterized Prince's answers as incomplete and called for him to be subpoenaed.

“On the details of this meeting, Prince was less than forthcoming and sought to represent that his discussion with Dmitriev, which comprised a third of the time he was conducting meetings in the Seychelles, was merely coincidental,” Schiff said at the time.

The Washington Post initially broke news about the meeting in April, reporting that it was part of an apparent effort to establish a "back-channel line of communication."