Trump fires Rex Tillerson; members of a complicit GOP Congress lead another whitewash of Trump’s Russia problems; Pennsylvania voters in a deep red district repudiate the Republican candidate in a special election; and students nationally show their elders how to speak truth to power. This week, the events through Wednesday alone make last week seem like a distant memory. But it’s worth remembering one that received little media attention.
Way back then, a botched porn-star payoff, former Trump aide Sam Nunberg’s cable news circus act, typical Trump-style hype over North Korea, and a vile rally in Pennsylvania swamped cable news networks. But last week’s most important and underreported story involved Erik Prince. He may find himself among Trump’s many aides and allies who have been caught lying about their contacts with Russia.
In this week’s update of the Trump-Russia Timeline, Prince earns a Timeline name filter and this descriptive “pop-up” bubble:
Erik Prince is the founder of the Blackwater private security firm (now known as Academi). He is also a $250,000 donor to the Trump campaign and the brother of Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In 1990, Prince worked as an intern for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). In January 2017, he reportedly met in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev and representatives of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Now Go To The Timeline
For Prince, the key date is Jan. 11, 2017 How and why did he meet with Kirill Dmitriev on a remote sovereign archipelago in the Indian Ocean? Increasingly, the answer appears to be “backchannel.”
DEC. 1, 2016: Jared Kushner secretly suggests to the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak the creation of a backchannel through which the Trump administration and the Kremlin can communicate directly and privately without US intelligence monitoring the conversations. To Kislyak’s astonishment, Kushner proposes using the Russian embassy as a venue.
DEC. 15, 2016: Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, and Jared Kushner meet secretly in New York with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who broke diplomatic protocol by failing to inform President Obama’s State Department about his visit.
JAN. 11, 2017: Erik Prince meets with Dmitriev in the Seychelles. According to later reporting by The Washington Post, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan had arranged the meeting.
NOV. 30, 2017: Erik Prince tells the House Intelligence Committee that his January 11 meeting with Dmitriev was happenstance. Prince says that he had traveled to the Seychelles “to meet with some potential customers from the UAE for the logistics business” of which he is chairman. “After the meeting,” he continues, “they mentioned a guy I should meet who was also in town to see them, a Kirill Dmitriev from Russia, who ran some sort of hedge fund.” Prince says he then met Dmitriev in the hotel bar, and they chatted about a variety of topics for “a maximum of 30 minutes.” The next day, he repeated the story on MSNBC.
However, according to subsequent reporting by The Wall Street Journal, George Nader had attended Prince’s meeting in the Seychelles with the Emirati delegation. Prince hadn’t mentioned him to House investigators, and now Nader has a different version of what happened.
JAN. 17, 2018: En route to a Mar-a-Lago celebration of Trump’s first year in office, federal agents detain Nader and greet him with a search warrant, a grand jury subpoena, and many questions. Nader agrees to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
MARCH 6, 2018: The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal report that Mueller has evidence of backchannel discussions in the Seychelles prior to Trump’s inauguration. Apparently, Nader’s finger points directly at Erik Prince.
According to The New York Times, “[George] Nader represented the crown prince [Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan] in the three-way conversation in the Seychelles, at a hotel overlooking in the Indian Ocean, in the days before Mr. Trump took office. At the meeting, Emirati officials believed Mr. Prince was speaking for the Trump transition team, and a Russian fund manager, Kirill Dmitriev, represented Mr. [Vladimir] Putin, according to several people familiar with the meeting….”
If Nader is telling the truth, Prince faces exposure for lying to Congress.
MARCH 8, 2018: Completing the loop, Prince has agreed to hold a fundraiser for Russia’s favorite US congressman, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
Both Mike Flynn and George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying about their secret dealings with Russia. Will Erik Prince follow in their footsteps? Members of Team Trump keep insisting that they have nothing to hide. Yet one-by-one, they keep getting caught in prevarications about the same subject: the Trump Team’s communications with Russia before Trump became president.
And if you’re wondering whether an incoming president-elect’s attempt to establish a backchannel for communications with a foreign adversary are illegal, the answer is yes. So is lying about it to federal investigators. The larger question is why Trump wanted one.
Here’s a complete list of this week’s Timeline updates:
NOV. 8-10, 2013: The Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow
JANUARY 2015: Goldstone and Emin Agalarov Meet Trump in NYC
NOVEMBER 20, 2016: Trump Considers Romney for Secretary of State: Russians Resist
DEC. 13, 2016: Trump Rejects Romney; Nominates Tillerson—a ‘Gift’ for Putin (revision of previous entry)
DEC. 15, 2016: Bannon, Flynn and Kushner Meet Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; Nader Nearby (revision of previous entry)
JAN. 11, 2017: Prince Meets With Putin Associate in the Seychelles (revision of previous entry)
NOV. 30, 2017: Mueller Interviews McGahn
NOV. 30, 2017: Prince Testifies Before House Intelligence Committee
DEC. 1, 2017: Prince Reiterates His Story on the Seychelles Meeting: “That Was That”
JAN. 17, 2018: Adviser to Crown Prince Detained at Dulles
FEB. 27, 2018: Hicks Admits to “White Lies”; Says Emails Hacked; House Intelligence Committee Gets “Bannon’ed” (revision of previous entry)
MARCH 1, 2018: Trump Cyber Nominee Says Russians Don’t Expect US Response to Attacks
MARCH 5, 2018: Former Trump Aide Threatens to Defy Mueller, But Doesn’t
MARCH 5, 2018: Prostitute Claims to Have Audio Recordings
MARCH 5, 2018: Wyden Follow Up With NRA
MARCH 6, 2018: Coats Says US Lacks Coherent Strategy to Address Russian Interference
MARCH 6, 2018: Trump Equivocates on Russian Meddling
MARCH 6, 2018: GOP Congressmen Call for Special Prosecutor
MARCH 6, 2018: Mueller Has Evidence of Backchannel Discussions in the Seychelles
MARCH 8, 2018: Trump Talking to Witnesses
MARCH 8, 2018: Manafort Trial Date Set in VA Case
MARCH 8, 2018: Prince to Host Fundraiser for Rohrabacher
MARCH 11, 2018: Trump Tweets After NYT Report on Legal Team