Blackwater founder Erik Prince explained to investigators of the House Intelligence Committee a January meeting he held with a Russian banker in the Seychelles who said it was not related to his support for the Trump campaign, according to a transcript of your closed-door interview.
Prince in November told lawmakers investigating Russian interference in US elections that he met with Kirill Dmitriev, head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund under US sanctions since 2015, for less than 30 minutes with a beer per suggestion of the emiratis the royalty, whose invitation was the basis of their trip to the luxury islands.
According to Prince's memories of the meeting, Dmitriev told the former military contractor that he wanted the exchange to resume between the United States and Russia "normally," but they did not discuss US sanctions at all.
"I remember telling you that if Franklin Roosevelt could work with Josef Stalin to defeat the Nazis, fascism, certainly the United States could work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islamic fascism," Prince told investigators.
There was no follow-up to the meeting with Dmitriev, he said.
Prince characterized his involvement in Trump's campaign as a donor and supporter who would occasionally write policy documents, but said he had no official capacity.
He acknowledged that campaign strategist Stephen Bannon had told him about a December 2016 meeting between the Trump transition team and UAE officials, which reportedly upset the Obama administration at that time.
But Prince said he did not remember if the conversation with Bannon took place before or after his trip to the Seychelles.
"I think I remember Steve Bannon saying that they had met either [Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan] or someone like that and that he was a great guy," he said. "That's all I remember from that conversation"
Democrats on the panel have pointed out that the December meeting between Trump's transition and the United Arab Emirates took place a few weeks before Prince's meeting with Janmit, coordinated for the United Arab Emirates. officials.
Prince described the arrangement of his meeting with Dmitriev as informal, telling investigators that the real purpose of his trip was to meet with Emirati officials to discuss terrorism in the area and "just conceptual things" about business related to the minerals . Those meetings were equally brief, he said.
"It was a matter of, um, hey, while you're here, there's a Russian with whom we've done some business in the past, and it would be interesting for them to see it," Prince said. researchers
The Democrats of the Committee have characterized their responses as incomplete.
"On the details of this meeting, Prince was less than introverted and tried to represent his discussion with Dmitriev, who accounted for a third of the time he ran meetings in the Seychelles, it was merely casual," Rep. Adam Schiff Adam Bennett SchiffTrump Jr. did a high-risk interview with the Comey Chamber intelligence panel again in the limelight after Flynn makes a Schiff deal: Flynn declares: significant & # 39; MORE (D-Calif.) Said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Prince also failed to explain adequately why he traveled to half the world to meet with UAE officials and, ultimately, the head of the Russian fund."
The Seychelles meeting has been public knowledge since April, when its existence was first reported by The Washington Post.
At the time, The Post reported that the meeting was part of an apparent effort to establish a backward communication line between Moscow and then-President-elect Trump.
According to the newspaper, the UAE organized the meeting "in part" to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to move away from its relationship with Iran and Syria
Prince in his testimony told investigators that former community officials Intelligence had provided him with "specific evidence" that the unmasking of names in intelligence of classified signals was the basis of the Post's history.
The committee refused to provide the names of these people in an unclassified setting, but it remained firm that the Obama administration had improperly manipulated SIGINT or intelligence signals.
"One Minute The Washington Post has somehow miraculously recruited the bartender of a hotel in the Seychelles, the only way that happens is through SIGINT," he said. "If he walks like a duck and squawks like a duck, it's a duck."
The leak of the existence of the meeting, Prince said, angered the Emiratis who had traveled to the Seychelles to meet.
That goes back to my concern about what the community is going to do about the illegal leaks and political abuse of the intelligence apparatus that affects Americans, "he said.
Schiff asked the committee on Wednesday to cite to Prince to testify about what the intelligence officers told him.
– Contributed by Olivia Beavers.