Journalist Mehdi Hasan held Erik Prince’s feet to the fire in an interview this week, and the man who has been dubbed a “super mercenary” gave bizarre and contradictory answers under the pressure.
Prince is the shadowy figure who runs the military contracting company formerly known as “Blackwater.” He is also brother to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an ally and supporter of President Donald Trump, and a key witnesses to some of the events in threads of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that have yet to be tied up.
And when Hasan pressed Prince on one of these events, the mercenary seemed to back himself into a corner.
Hasan recounted the exchange in The Intercept. Prince, Hasan explained, confirmed the existence of a meeting during the 2016 campaign that had been reported on but has still largely remains obscure. That meeting took place at Trump Tower in August 2016 with Donald Trump Jr., Trump aide Stephen Miller, adviser to the UAE George Nader, and Israeli social media expert Joel Zamel. Prince said the meeting was about Iran policy. According to the New York Times, Nader, who has been convicted of child sex abuse, was offering foreign assistance to the Trump campaign.
The meeting may be significant for any number of reasons, but Hasan zeroed in on one reason in particular. The meeting seems to show Prince lied to Congress when he testified that he had no “official” or “unofficial” role with the campaign.
But why didn’t Prince tell members of Congress about his other secret meeting, in Trump Tower in August 2016? Especially if it was about a sensitive foreign policy issue like Iran?
“I don’t believe I was asked that question,” he replied.
Not true. I reminded him that he had been asked by a member of the House Intelligence Committee whether he had any “formal communications or contact with the campaign.”
The Blackwater founder then switched tack. He “did” inform the committee about the meeting, Prince told me. Why wasn’t it in the transcript of the hearing then, I countered? “I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong,” he said. Later in the interview, in response to a question from the audience, he doubled down: “Not all the discussion that day was transcribed, and that’s a fact.”
Got that? First, he said he wasn’t asked; then he said he told them about it; then he claimed that they made a mistake with the transcript; then he claimed that it was said off the record.
Hasan also reported that other sources say he never mentioned the meeting to Congress at any point. And all of this is an entirely separate matter from Prince’s suspicious meeting in Seychelles with a Russian oligarch and Nader less than two weeks before Trump’s inauguration.
Prince has spoken to Mueller, but he says he hasn’t “heard from anybody in nine months.” Hasan warned that the lies “could come back to haunt you,” but Prince seemed confident he is not at any risk of indictment.
But it’s not clear he should be so sure. Mueller has shown he takes lying to Congress seriously, and he’s brought false statement charges against many of Trump’s allies. If Mueller isn’t done yet with taking major prosecutorial steps, Prince may be next on his list.