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

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffEx-Trump aide on Russia testifies for 10 hours as part of impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe GOP rep says he was kicked out of Trump aide's deposition MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that his committee would make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice recommending President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report 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 PutinFunding for Radio Free Europe to return to Hungary will send a strong message Juan Williams: Trump, the conspiracy theory president Putin: Trump not to blame for lack of improved relations with Russia 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) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network 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 KushnerButtigieg knocks Trump as a 'walking conflict of interest' Biden's weak response to Trump is a lesson for Democratic candidates Mark Hamill zings Ivanka Trump for 'Star Wars' tweet MORE or the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpWhite House condemns violent video Backlash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics WHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets 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 BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBarr bemoans 'moral upheaval' that has brought 'suffering and misery' Trump threatens to sue Schiff and Pelosi Democratic lawmaker says Barr's reported meeting with Murdoch should be investigated 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.