As Democrats in the House Of Representatives begin to follow through on the revelations that they’ve been able to glean from the redacted Mueller report, one area that they are focusing on is cross-checking what witnesses who have testified in front of congressional committees have told the Special Counsel’s investigative team and how their stories may differ from what they told lawmakers.
Now the first fruits of their examinations are ripening with the news today that the House Intelligence Committee plans to make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice for Erik Prince.
Prince is a former advisor to the Trump campaign who held a secretive meeting in the Seychelles with Russian financier Kirill Dmitriev that he told Congress was a casual, chance encounter. Mueller’s report, however, states that Prince — who also happens to be the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — had several conversations with George Nadar, an emissary of the United Arab Emirates, about Dmitriev in advance of the in-person meeting in which he told Prince that “the Russians were looking to build a link with the incoming Trump administration.”
Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told The Washington Post that a referral to the Justice Department on charges of lying to Congress was imminent.
“I do believe that there is very strong evidence that he willingly misled the committee and made false statements to the committee,” Schiff said at a Washington Post Live event.
“The evidence is so weighty that the Justice Department needs to consider this,” he added.
“We know from the Mueller report that that was not a chance meeting,” Schiff said during an interview at the event. “We know there were communications after he returned.”
“In very material ways I think the evidence strongly suggests that he willingly misled our committee, and the Justice Department needs to consider whether there’s a prosecutable case,” Schiff continued.
While Prince, also the founder of the Blackwater private security company, is the first person to be charged with lying in front of Congress in relation to the Mueller report, he may not be the last whose testimony will be reexamined in light of the new information available.
Schiff pointed to Steve Bannon’s testimony before the intelligence committee regarding the Prince-Dmitriev meeting.
“There were whole periods of time in which Mr. Bannon refused to answer questions,” Schiff said. “When we asked whether he was asserting some privilege, he merely said he was not answering questions because the White House told him not to.”
Hopefully, Prince’s referral to the Justice Department for prosecution is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of holding the Trump administration accountable for all of the misdeeds that the Mueller report details and that Attorney General Barr has ignored thus far.
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Original reporting by John Wagner . Karoun Demirjian at The Washington Post