The Slatest

Mueller Reportedly Has Evidence Seychelles Meeting Was Trump Attempt to Set Up Kremlin Back Channel

Erik Prince arrives to testify during a closed-door House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 30, 2017.
Erik Prince arrives to testify during a closed-door House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 30.
SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

The New York Times, on Tuesday, reported special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Lebanese American businessman George Nader. The focus on Nader, who is reportedly cooperating and testified before a grand jury last week, brought focus back to a murky January 2017 meeting, during the presidential transition, in the Seychelles with Nader, a Putin-aligned Russian investor, and Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm Blackwater and informal Trump adviser. The secretive meeting has been the subject of much speculation from those who were not involved and significant misdirection from those who were. The meeting was also speculated to be a potential backdoor link—with a United Arab Emirates detour—between the Trump universe and the Kremlin. On Wednesday, the Washington Post’s reporting confirmed that Mueller’s investigators have evidence the meeting was, in fact, an attempt to establish a back channel between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin.

The full implications of what this means aren’t yet clear, but one thing is plain: Erik Prince, the Trump emissary at the off-book rendezvous, has been lying. “Last year, Prince told lawmakers—and the news media—that his Seychelles meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian government-controlled wealth fund, was an unplanned, unimportant encounter that came about by chance because he happened to be at a luxury hotel in the Indian Ocean island nation with officials from the United Arab Emirates,” the Post reports.

“At the end, one of the entourage says, ‘Hey, by the way, there’s this Russian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past. He’s here also to see someone from the Emirati delegation. And you should meet him, he’d be an interesting guy for you to know, since you’re doing a lot in the oil and gas and mineral space,’ ” Prince told lawmakers.

“We chatted on topics ranging from oil and commodity prices to how much his country wished for resumption of normal trade relations with the USA,” Prince told lawmakers. “I remember telling him that if Franklin Roosevelt could work with Joseph Stalin to defeat Nazi fascism, then certainly Donald Trump could work with Vladi­mir Putin to defeat Islamic fascism.”

Prince said the totally chance encounter with the Russian lasted only as long as it took them to drink a beer. Of all the Seychelles bars in the world. What a coinkydink.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in New York City.