“Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of the infamous private military contractor Blackwater and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is the latest member of Trumpworld to be caught up in the ever-expanding web of intrigue surrounding the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that Prince was at the center of a secret meeting in the Seychelles, brokered by the United Arab Emirates in early January, to establish a back channel between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
It is unknown what Prince and the Russian envoy specifically discussed during the meeting, which took place shortly before Trump’s inauguration. But according to U.S., European, and Arab officials who spoke with the Post, the overall goal was to open a dialog with the Russian government outside of traditional diplomatic channels. The U.A.E. reportedly agreed to set up the meeting—which one official said spanned two days—with the hope that Russia could be convinced to scale back its relationship with Iran, a foreign policy development that would be in the best interest of the U.S. and the U.A.E.
While Prince never had a formal role in the Trump campaign and did not serve on the transition team, the 47-year-old former Navy SEAL was a prominent Trump supporter. According to the Post, Prince had close ties to White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and donated $250,000 to the Trump campaign. He also “presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.”
“Erik had no role on the transition team. This is a complete fabrication,” a spokesman for Prince said in a statement to the Post. “The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump. Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?” The White House offered a similar denial to the newspaper. “We are not aware of any meetings and Erik Prince had no role in the transition,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary said in a statement. During Tuesday’s daily White House press briefing, Spicer again dismissed the Post account as “as flimsy as best,” and added, “I get someone may have visited an island but there is no proof they… met with an individual nor that they had any ties.”
The Post reports that the Seychelles meeting was set up by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and his brother, and took place shortly after Zayed also met with Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in New York City. Zayed, according to Western officials, also met with Putin twice in 2016.
Seychelles officials said they were not aware of any such meeting, but told the Post that they would not be surprised. “The Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media,” Barry Faure, the Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs, said. “That’s even printed in our tourism marketing. But I guess this time you smelled something.”
Blackwater Billionaire Reportedly Held a Secret Meeting to Connect Trump with Putin. Erik Prince reportedly met with a Putin ally in the Seychelles to establish a diplomatic back channel between the Trump Team and Russia. – by Abigail Tracy, April 3, 2017, 7:07 pm”