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

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that his committee would make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice recommending President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech 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 PutinHow Trump's election lawsuits became his worst nightmare Enforcing the Presidential Records Act is essential for preserving our democracy's transparency, history Putin says doctors and teachers will get first COVID-19 vaccines in new immunization campaign 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) MuellerBarr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting 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 KushnerMary Trump doesn't think Trump will run in 2024 Trump pardon scandal would doom his 2024 campaign Enforcing the Presidential Records Act is essential for preserving our democracy's transparency, history MORE or the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.Don John TrumpTrump pardon scandal would doom his 2024 campaign Trump Jr. in radio ad: Father's 'accomplishments' are on the ballot in Georgia Senate races Trump Jr. aides launch super PAC to persuade president's supporters to vote in Georgia 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 BarrKellyanne Conway acknowledges Biden as apparent winner Trump Pentagon nominee alleged Biden 'coup': report Ex-FBI lawyer who falsified document in Trump-Russia probe seeks to avoid prison 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.