Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes met with Blackwater founder
Erik Prince earlier this year and discussed Nunes'
investigation into the unmasking of Americans' identities in US
The meeting has raised eyebrows given Nunes' recusal
from the Russia investigation and Prince's status as a witness
in that probe.
Nunes stepped aside from the Russia investigation in
early April following his decision to brief Trump and the
press on clbadified intelligence without telling his fellow
Devin Nunes met with Blackwater founder Erik Prince earlier this
year and discussed Nunes' investigation into the unmasking of
Americans' identities in US intelligence reports, Prince told the House Intelligence
Committee in an interview last week.
The meeting, which took place over "the summer or early fall,"
you have raised eyebrows given Nunes' recusal from the Russia
investigation and Prince's status as a witness in that probe.
Prince was questioned by the committee on November 30 about his
meeting with Emirati government officials and a Russian hedge
fund manager in Seychelles just before the Inauguration.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff asked Prince during the hearing why
he had not responded to a documents request sent to him by the
committee on May 17. Prince insisted that he never received the
letter and said the first time I heard from the committee
"only weeks ago" when a staffer, Kash Patel, asked if he would
Asked if he had "any subsequent communication with any of the
members or staff of the committee, "Prince replied that he" had
seen Chairman Nunes. "Prince said later that his meeting with
Nunes was actually the first time I learned that the committee
wanted him to testify.
"He had talked about coming in for a hearing," Prince said. "And
one of his staff members was there as well. "
Asked whether Nunes had gotten into "the substance of your
testimony in any way, "Prince replied that the conversation
revolved around Nunes' "investigation into the unmasking of
intelligence on Americans. "
"He said I should eat in and talk to him about that," Prince
Nunes stepped aside from the Russia investigation in early April
following his decision to brief Trump and the press on clbadified
intelligence – without telling his fellow committee members.
But he quickly began conducting his own investigation into "unmaskings" of
Trump badociates by the Obama administration, which he has
alleged were politically motivated. Prince echoed many of the
same arguments Nunes has made in the past about the unmasking
process, baderting that "unlawful leaking" from the US
intelligence community about the names of American citizens
caught up in intelligence reports constituted "abuse."
Nunes wrote in July letter to the Director of National
Intelligence that he had "found evidence that current and former
government officials had easy access to U.S. person information
and that is possible that they used this information to
achieve partisan political purposes. "
A spokesman for Nunes did not answer questions about whether
Nunes and Prince discussed the substance of Prince's testimony,
or coordinated in any way, prior to his November 30 hearing.
Prince, for his part, seemed convinced that The Washington Post
learned of his meeting with Emirati officials and the Russian
banker in the Seychelles from US intelligence officials who had
leaked his name to the press.
It is illegal for intelligence officials to reveal the names of
unmasked Americans. But Republican and Democratic congressional
aides told news outlets in April, shortly after Nunes stepped
down from the probe, that Obama administration officials did not
act inappropriately in trying to unmask officials on Trump's
transition team whose conversations with foreign officials were
incidentally collected during routine intelligence-gathering
Prince told Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell that he "went to see
[Nunes] in his office about Afghanistan. "
"When was that?" Swalwell asked.
"Well, I do not know," Prince replied. "I wrote an op-ed in The
Wall Street Journal. I was asked to come into the White House a
couple times to talk about that. And so it was sometime, I do not
know, over the summer or early fall. "
Prince's op-ed was published on May 31.
"How did unmasking come up?" Swalwell asked. "Did I bring it up,
or did you? "
"No," Prince said. "I asked him what the committee was doing to
investigate illegal leaks and illegal unmasking of American
citizens doing business abroad. And he said: You ought to come in
and talk to the committee about it sometime. "
Prince alleged that he had learned from former US intelligence
officials that his name and others were improperly unmasked by
Obama administration officials. But he did not provide details,
and refused to name his source when pressed by the Democrats.