Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince could be the next Trump supporter that Special Counsel Robert Mueller “flips” into a witness for the prosecution.
Prince, who is the younger brother of Trump’s controversial Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, confirmed last week that he is voluntarily cooperating with Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, reports ABC News.
He has already answered questions from Mueller’s team and turned over his phone and computer for inspection, as part of an investigation into whether Prince was involved in an effort to create a secret backchannel between Trump and the Russians, which he denies.
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However, ABC News reports that Mueller is looking at inconsistencies in his sworn testimony which could lead to a charge of lying to the FBI, which is a felony.
If that happens, it would give Mueller leverage to try and “flip” Prince, to get him to accept a plea bargain and become a cooperating witness n his investigation.
He could then potentially testify against Trump and others.
A central issue is a meeting Prince had in April 2017 in the Seychelles islands shortly after Trump took office where he held a secret meeting with a Russian official who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Prince, in voluntary testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last November said he did not go there to meet with the Russian, Kirill Dmitriev, but just happened to “meet the Russian guy” and talked with him “over a beer.”
Dmitriev is head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, a job to which he was appointed by Putin.
Mueller since then has gotten testimony from Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who has been granted limited immunity in return for his cooperation, that he set up the meeting in advance and Nadar shared information with Prince about the Russian in advance and after the meeting.
“That’s not the only potential inconsistency in Prince’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that appears to have caught the attention of investigators,” reports ABC News.
When he testified before the House committee, Prince was asked by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Ca.) if he ever had any “investments” or “business partnerships” with Russian nationals.
He said “zero.”
However, ABC News reports two of Prince’s former business associates have told them that Mueller is looking into business deals between Prince’s Hong Kong-based security firm Frontier Services Group and Russian nationals.
“One former business associate, who has worked with Prince since the 1990s, recounted a recent conversation with FBI agents from Mueller’s office,” reports ABC News.
“Are you aware of any falsehoods in the testimony that Erik Prince gave to the House Intelligence Committee?” the associate said agents asked him.
“The associate said he told the agents about Prince’s previously undisclosed alliance with Dimitriy Streshinskiy, a former Russian special forces soldier turned arms dealer and manufacturer.”
Mueller has evidence from a 2015 report done by Frontier that suggests Streshinskly was Prince’s partner in a security contract being negotiated with Azerbaijan, which in itself may have been illegal.
New, Exclu: Erik Prince tells me he has cooperated with Mueller https://t.co/FIEPtefMYb
— Betsy Woodruff (@woodruffbets) June 19, 2018
The potentially lucrative deal later fell apart over a business dispute.
ABC News reports another former Prince associate said Frontier Service made a deal with the Russian state-owned energy firm Rostec to work on logistics for a proposed refinery in Tanzania and Uganda.
Work began but the deal collapsed when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine in 2014, according to the source,
Rep. Swalwell said the inquiries into Prince are something he welcomes.
“I have a lot of questions about whether he was being straight with us,” Swalwell told ABC News. “I’m heartened to hear that the special counsel is doing what Republicans on the committee were not willing to do … and follow up and not take Mr. Prince at his word.”
Prince, a Naval Academy dropout and former Navy Seal, made millions after he formed Blackwater and got billions in U.S. government contracts, much of it for work in Iraq. For a time it was the largest private contractor supplying security for U.S. embassies.
Blackwater was criticized when through involvement with the CIA and other U.S. government activities his employees were charged with massacring 17 innocent people in Iraq.
Prince sold Blackwater and resigned by 2010 but has continued his activities in the “security business” shadows in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere ever since.
Considering how he has done business and the many times his activities have been questioned, it would not be a surprise if he was lying about his efforts for Trump, whom he supported for president in the 2016 election.
If Mueller can get the truth out of Prince it could be an important source of intelligence about Trump and his campaign’s connections to the Russians, which could give the Special Counsel new fuel to keep firing up his probe.
No wonder Trump is so desperate to shut Mueller down. Every day that passes brings new revelations and more changes to turn characters like Prince into a friendly witness.