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

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff: Intelligence agencies focused on Russian interference 'even if the president isn't' Schiff: Intelligence agencies focused on Russian interference 'even if the president isn't' Schiff: Bolton, Pompeo undercutting Trump's attempts to stay out of war MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that his committee would make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice recommending President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment 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 PutinTurkey and Russia are not friends, despite appearances O'Rourke: Trump 'made a mess of our foreign policy' O'Rourke: Trump 'made a mess of our foreign policy' 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 MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump 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 KushnerFinancial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Financial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Kim Kardashian West joins Trump at White House event for ex-prisoners MORE or the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Lieu trolls Trump with 'warning' to foreign powers on office door 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 BarrAnticipation builds for final Supreme Court rulings Anticipation builds for final Supreme Court rulings Trump's Justice Department should change its tune on antitrust policy 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.