Administration

Erik Prince helped raise money for effort to spy on progressives and anti-Trump Republicans: report

Trump ally Erik Prince, the founder and former CEO of the security contractor previously known as Blackwater, reportedly helped raise money for an effort to spy on progressives, Democratic campaigns and anti-Trump Republicans during the summer of 2018.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Prince helped former British spy Richard Seddon in his operation that sought to surveil liberal organizations, Democratic operations and individuals opposed to then-President Trump in an effort to gather unfavorable information that could be used against politicians and activists across the country.

The Times, citing documents and people familiar with Seddon’s plans, said Prince became the operation’s “celebrity pitchman” and fundraised for the spying effort.

Susan Gore, who is an heiress to the fortune amassed by the Gore-Tex brand, was also reportedly involved in the effort and eventually became the operation’s main backer.

The group planned to begin their operation in Wyoming then expand, according to the Times. The project eventually spread to Colorado and Arizona.

One target of the operation was reportedly Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R), who is viewed as a “RINO,” or Republican in name only, among some conservative groups in the state, according to the Times.

Former Wyoming state Rep. Marti Halverson (R) reportedly contributed a list of potential targets for the operation, including John Cox, who at the time was serving as director of the state’s Department of Workforce Service, and Scott Talbott, who at the time was working as the director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The document, dated December 2018, labeled Talbott as “another of the names of corrupt individuals from Marti,” according to the Times.

Halverson told the Times via phone, “Frankly, I have nothing to say on the subject,” before hanging up.

The revelations illustrate the effort by some ultraconservative Republicans to utilize spy tactics in an effort to influence politics in the U.S., the newspaper noted. The report also reveals ties between those efforts and the Trump administration, as Seddon served as an informal adviser to administration officials.

The number of potential donors, other than Gore, who approached by Prince for the spy project remains unclear, according to the Times.

Three people, however, told the newspaper that Gore made a failed attempt at fundraising for the operation from Wyoming billionaire and businessman Foster Friess. Gore reportedly tried to secure capital from Friess during a meeting in January 2019.

Additionally, the project reportedly funneled in thousands of dollars in campaign contributions by pretending to be Democrats.

The Department of Justice is currently investigating Prince on separate matters, three people familiar with the case told the Times. He declined to comment to the Times, and Seddon and Gore did not respond to inquiries.

Prince, a former Navy SEAL, attracted widespread attention in 2007 when Blackwater contractors killed 17 civilians in Iraq. He has also been accused of breaking arms embargoes in Somalia and Libya, and has denied claims that he established a back channel communications link with the Russian government.

He made headlines in August when reports surfaced that he was offering to fly people out of Kabul for $6,500 each, as the U.S. was working to pull all personnel out of the country.

Tags Donald Trump Erik Prince Richard Seddon
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