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Schiff: House panel to recommend DOJ open investigation into Erik Prince testimony

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffPelosi: Trump DOJ seizure of House Democrats' data ' goes even beyond Richard Nixon' Ex-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Nixon's former White House counsel: Trump DOJ was 'Nixon on stilts and steroids' MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that his committee would make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice recommending President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE ally Erik Prince be investigated for lying to Congress.

Schiff said at a Washington Post Live event that the evidence is “very strong” that Prince lied to his committee about his meeting in Seychelles with a Russian financier with ties to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden prepares to confront Putin Ukrainian president thanks G-7 nations for statement of support Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting MORE.

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“I do believe that there was very strong evidence that he willingly lied to the committee,” Schiff said. “Later today, we are going to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department.”

Prince, the founder and former CEO of security firm Blackwater and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, interviewed with the committee behind closed doors as part of the panel’s original investigation into Russian interference, which was led and shuttered by Republicans in the last Congress.

Schiff said Tuesday that the redacted version of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s report demonstrates that Prince likely “willingly misled” the committee about the Seychelles meeting. Schiff said that Prince told the committee that his meeting with Russian banker Kirill Dmitriev was “purely by chance.”

“We know from the Mueller report now that it was not a chance meeting,” Schiff said, adding that it will now be up to the Justice Department to decide whether the allegations rise to the level of criminal prosecution.

According to Mueller’s report, Prince arranged the meeting with George Nader, a business executive who has advised the United Arab Emirates and has ties to Dmitriev, after the Russian banker expressed an interest to Nader in connecting with incoming administration officials following Trump’s election.

The meeting in Seychelles in January 2017 was one of multiple contacts between Russians and Trump campaign associates that Mueller examined in the course of his investigation into Russia's election interference.

The special counsel ultimately did not charge members or associates of the campaign with conspiring with the Kremlin.

Prince did not have a formal role in the Trump campaign but he had connections to its members, including Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon, who later became Trump’s chief strategist in the White House.

“Nader informed Prince that the Russians were looking to build a link with the incoming Trump Administration,” the report states. “Nader suggested, in light of Prince's and Dmitriev meet to discuss issues of mutual concern.”

Prince and Dmitriev eventually met in Seychelles, days before Trump took office.

Prince told Mueller’s team that he briefed Bannon about the meeting, but Bannon told the special counsel’s office that “he never discussed with Prince anything regarding Dmitriev,” the report states.

Prince spoke with the special counsel’s office as part of a proffer agreement, according to the report, which could mean that Prince believed he could be charged with crimes and testified under an agreement his statements would not be used against him.

Schiff said Tuesday that the proffer agreement could make a criminal case against Prince problematic, depending on what it entailed.

Schiff declined to say whether he believed other witnesses, including Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Israel-Hamas ceasefire is holding — what's next? Eric Trump buys .2M home near father's golf club in Florida CDC's about-face on masks appears politically motivated to help a struggling Biden MORE or the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.Don TrumpDonald Trump Jr. joins Cameo Book claims Trump family members were 'inappropriately' close with Secret Service agents Trump Jr. shares edited video showing father knocking Biden down with golf ball MORE, may have lied to his committee.

His panel voted to release all of its interview transcripts to Mueller in the Russia probe earlier this year before the special counsel concluded his investigation into Russian interference. 

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMedia leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations Trump DOJ subpoenaed Apple for records of White House lawyer: report Pelosi: Trump DOJ seizure of House Democrats' data ' goes even beyond Richard Nixon' MORE is scheduled to testify before the House and Senate this week on Mueller's report, a redacted version of which he released earlier this month. 

Updated at 10:37 a.m.