The founder of the security firm Blackwater did not mention to the House Intelligence Committee last year that a Lebanese-American businessman had attended a meeting in the Seychelles islands, a trip that has come under intense scrutiny in the Russia investigation, according to a review of the transcript.
In testimony last November before the panel, Erik Prince was questioned extensively about the January 2017 Seychelles meeting and whether it was an attempt to set up secret communications between the Trump administration and Russia. As Prince furiously denied that was the case, he also did not reveal that George Nader – a Lebanese-American businessman and Middle East specialist with ties to the Trump team – also attended at least one meeting there, raising fresh questions among Democrats about whether Prince misled the panel when testifying under oath.
Prince, a Trump associate and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, disclosed to the committee that he had met with United Arab Emirates officials and a Russian banker, Kirill Dmitriev, during that trip.
But according to a new report from CNN, another individual also was present in the Seychelles at that time: Nader, who also is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. According to sources familiar with the matter, Nader attended the January 2017 Seychelles meeting between UAE officials and Prince. Nader was also present at a bar when Prince met separately with Dmitriev, the chief executive of the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, although it is unclear whether Nader was involved in the conversation, sources said.
Democrats said the new revelations about Nader’s involvement raise fresh concerns with Prince’s testimony.
“During his Russia investigation interview, Mr. Prince was asked directly by me and Mr. Schiff who he met with while he was in the Seychelles,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, told CNN. “He never gave the name George Nader. If he met with George Nader, he lied under oath.”
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the panel, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that reports about Nader are “inconsistent” with Prince’s testimony before his committee.
Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat on the panel, added that it’s clear from his testimony that Prince didn’t want to discuss his dealings with the UAE.
“It is possible he was not truthful,” Quigley said.
Some Republicans on the panel are dismissing the concerns that Prince may have lied to the committee about meeting with Nader.
“It’s all bulls***,” said Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican.
Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican running the Russia probe, declined to comment.
Asked if Prince may have lied to the panel, Conaway said: “I can’t speak one way or the other on that at this stage.”
Democrats may have no recourse to pursue the matter further if Republicans do not agree with their concerns.
Prince spokesman Aaron Bass would not say Wednesday if Nader was at the Seychelles meeting.
“This is all a matter of public record,” Bass said, referring to the publicly released transcript of Prince’s testimony from November. “Erik stated that he met with (the) crown prince, a number of members of his delegation and advisers.”
Asked if that meant Nader was one of those advisers, Bass said: “As we said yesterday, Erik has nothing more to add to his evidence on this one. We are not making any further comments.”
The meeting in the Seychelles has come under scrutiny because Democrats and some intelligence sources suspected it was a way to set up a back channel between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin. Prince has strongly denied that was the case, and he denied to the House panel last year that anyone on Trump’s team had asked him to take the meeting.
Prince said he was invited to the Seychelles by someone working for the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and met with a group there for an hour. It was a member of the Emirati entourage, Prince said, who recommended he meet with Dmitriev to discuss business opportunities. He said the meeting with Dmitriev was brief and had nothing to do with the Trump administration.
During his testimony before the House panel, Prince was asked by Schiff directly whether he had met with “anyone else in the Seychelles from your company or any other associates there?”
Prince’s response: “No.”
Prince has worked with Nader in the past, at one point hiring him as a consultant to help with business opportunities in Iraq. Prince said in a 2010 deposition that his private security company “retained” Nader “for a while” to secure contracts with the Iraqi government. But Nader “pretty much worked on his own” and little came from the arrangement, Prince said at the time.
Also during the testimony, Prince told the panel he had “impromptu” meetings with nationals from other countries during foreign trips, listing countries like Poland, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.
“But you didn’t meet with any of those in that January meeting other than the Russian banker,” Swalwell asked. “Is that right?”
Prince responded: “Correct.”
CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed to this report.