While it can be dizzying to keep track of the deep roster of misdeeds, abuses of power, and shady dealings the Trump team has engaged in during its relatively short tenure, it’s crucial that the American people don’t let anything fall through the cracks. The president and his cronies must be held accountable for all of their actions, not just the ones that receive the most press coverage.
With that in mind, it’s key that a report from The Daily Beast today not be lost amidst Brett Kavanaugh’s growing sexual misconduct scandals. In it are revealed previously undisclosed details about the secret meeting between Erik Prince — the former head of murderous private military contractor Blackwater (now called Academi) — and Russian businessman Kirill Dmitriev.
Prince, who is the brother of Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, secretly met with Dmitriev in Seychelles, a remote African archipelago in the Indian Ocean not long after the 2016 election.
The meeting has proven to be an area of interest for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has looked into it as part of his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump team and Russia. Despite Prince’s previous testimony that the meeting was a spur-of-the-moment, low stakes encounter, Mueller has reportedly uncovered evidence that it was, in fact, a planned, premeditated attempt to establish a clandestine backchannel between the Trump administration and the Putin regime.
The Daily Beast has managed to obtain a memo relayed by Dmitriev after the Seychelles meeting. It summarizes the topics discussed by himself and Prince. They addressed five major points:
1) A proposal for the United States and Russian Federation to cooperate on “coordination and joint actions in Syria against ISIS.” It suggested, “joint special forces mission where together the U.S. and Russia take out a key ISIS person or place or frees an area then announces it after.”
Furthermore, it called for the resumption of intelligence-sharing between the two powers to combat terrorism. Finally, it suggested “large-scale humanitarian” efforts, which would include the building of hospitals and the delivery of medical supplies and food.
2) A proposal for “a serious joint effort by U.S. and Russia to actively address the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical (WMD) terror.” It suggested having the two nations push for nuclear nonproliferation.
3) Proposals for ways in which the two countries can create “win-win economic investment initiatives that will be supported by both electorates.” Part of the memo heavily implies that Prince spoke as a surrogate of the Trump team. “Understanding U.S. production by foreign companies is a focus of the new administration,” it reads.
It also discusses the possibility of Russian investments in the Midwest to create jobs. The idea of sending Washington political officials to Russia to shill for American businesses was also discussed.
4) Dmitriev’s memo says the meeting with Prince yielded an agreement on the need for an “honest and open and continual dialogue on differences and concerns,” specifically as it relates to Ukraine, which Russia invade to annex the Crimea region.
5) Lastly, the memo calls for the establishment of a working group with “2-3 people from each side authorized to finalize an action plan for a major improvement in the U.S.-Russia relationship” as well as “coordination across major agencies and government bodies to achieve tangible impact in the next 9-12 months.”
Evelyn Farkas, who worked in Obama’s Pentagon, told The Daily Beast that the first four points outlined in the memo are suggestions that Russia regularly pushes for.
“It’s nothing new. What is new is that they’re trying to do this through this weird backchannel,” said Farkas.
However, the final suggestion is unusual, according to the Vice President of the think tank Third’s way national security program, Mieke Eoyang.
“Number five, that there’s a task force where the Russians are going to participate in figuring out what the policy should be on numbers one through four, that’s really not normal. They call it shuttle diplomacy for a reason: There’s a back and forth on it. But you’re not letting them inside your decision-making loop,” Eoyang told Daily Beast.
While the memo doesn’t contain any pieces that appear to be explicitly illegal or treasonous, the fact that Prince lied about the nature of the meeting is a major cause for concern. For some reason, he felt compelled to conceal the topics discussed with Russia which, when considered with everything else we know about the hidden interactions between Trump associates and Putin surrogates, is deeply disturbing.
Something happened at that Seychelle meeting that he is afraid to admit, and it’s only a matter of time before Robert Mueller exposes it.