Erik Prince convinced right-wing heiress to fund political espionage against Trump critics: report
Erik Prince (Photo: Miller Center/Flickr)

The billionaire founder of the Blackwater mercenary company played a key role in setting up a domestic spying venture against critics of Donald Trump.

"During the summer of 2018, as Richard Seddon, a former British spy, was trying to launch a new venture to use undercover agents to infiltrate progressive groups, Democratic campaigns and other opponents of President Donald J. Trump, he turned for help to a longtime friend and former colleague: Erik Prince, the private military contractor," The New York Times reported Tuesday. "Mr. Prince took on the role of celebrity pitchman, according to interviews and documents, raising money for Mr. Seddon’s spying operation, which was aimed at gathering dirt that could discredit politicians and activists in several states. After Mr. Prince and Mr. Seddon met in August 2018 with Susan Gore, a Wyoming heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune, Ms. Gore became the project’s main benefactor."

Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, who served as Trump's education secretary.

"Mr. Prince’s role in the effort, which has not been previously disclosed, sheds further light on how a group of ultraconservative Republicans employed spycraft to try to manipulate the American political landscape," the newspaper reported. "His willingness to support Mr. Seddon’s operation is fresh evidence of his engagement in political espionage projects at home during a period when he was an informal adviser to Trump administration officials."

The report was based on "documents obtained by The Times and interviews with people familiar with [Seddon's] plans."

The effort may violate federal law.

"During the 2018 meeting with Ms. Gore, according to one person familiar with it, Mr. Prince and Mr. Seddon said the goal of the private spying operation was to gather dirt both on Democrats and 'RINOs' — slang in conservative circles for 'Republicans in name only.' The plan was to begin in Wyoming, they said, and expand operations from there," the newspaper reported. "Over two years, Mr. Seddon’s undercover operatives also developed networks in Colorado and Arizona, and made thousands of dollars in campaign donations posing as Democrats, both to the Democratic National Committee and individual campaigns. Funneling money surreptitiously to campaigns through other donors — known as straw man donations — would violate federal campaign finance laws. Mr. Prince is separately under investigation by the Justice Department on unrelated matters, according to people familiar with the case."

Read the full report.