House Intel formally requests criminal investigation into Erik Prince

The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday formally requested that the Justice Department open an investigation into Erik Prince, a close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE, over his previous testimony to Congress.

In a letter sent to Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrJudge rejects DOJ effort to delay House lawsuit against Barr, Ross Holder rips into William Barr: 'He is unfit to lead the Justice Department' Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill MORE, the panel's chairman, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records Democrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote MORE (D-Calif.), wrote in part that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts MORE's report "strongly indicates that Erik Prince knowingly and willfully provided materially false testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence."

Prince, the founder and former CEO of the security firm Blackwater, was interviewed in a closed-door meeting by the committee as part of its investigation into Russia's election interference.

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Schiff has said in the past that Prince did not disclose to the panel a 2016 Trump Tower meeting he took part in to discuss Iran. The House Intelligence Committee chairman had signaled earlier on Tuesday that the panel would recommend the criminal referral.

The California Democrat also said the Mueller report indicated Prince lied to the committee about a meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian financier with ties to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinSenate confirms Trump's Russia ambassador Trump is right to shake up NATO Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE.

"Mr. Prince’s false statements hindered the Committee’s ability to fully understand and examine foreign efforts to undermine our political process and national security, develop appropriate legislative and policy remedies to counter future malign influence operations targeting campaigns and presidential transitions, and inform the American public, as appropriate," Schiff wrote to Barr.

Mueller’s report said Prince arranged the January 2017 Seychelles meeting with George Nader, a business executive who has advised the United Arab Emirates and has ties to Russian banker Kirill Dmitriev. Dmitriev had expressed to Nader an interest in connecting with incoming administration officials after Trump was elected.

Prince did not work in an official capacity on the Trump campaign but was affiliated with some of its top staffers, including campaign CEO Stephen Bannon, who later became White House chief strategist.

Prince told the intelligence panel that his meeting with Dmitriev was a chance encounter proposed by representatives from the United Arab Emirates once he was already in the Seychelles.

Schiff's letter also noted that Mueller found that Prince told Dmitriev he would gauge the Trump campaign’s interest in continuing a conversation about opening a channel of communication between the United States and Russia. Prince testified that there was never a discussion about such a channel.

The Seychelles meeting was one of several points of contact between associates of the Trump campaign and Russians that Mueller probed during his inquiry into Russia's election interference. The special counsel ultimately declined to charge campaign staffers or any associates with coordinating with Moscow.