The Washington Post is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is gathering evidence that a Seychelles meeting in January 2017 involving a U.A.E. adviser and Trump-connected Erik Prince was aimed at creating a secret back channel between the incoming Trump administration and Russia. The U.A.E. adviser, George Nader, is now reportedly cooperating with Mueller. Prince had originally painted the meeting in a very different light during a Congressional interview last year. The Post writes:
Erik Prince, the founder of the private military company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to President Vladimir Putin, and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations.
A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the two countries, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. […]
Last year, Prince told lawmakers — and the press — that his Seychelles meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian government-controlled wealth fund, was an unplanned, unimportant encounter that came about by chance because he happened to be at a luxury hotel in the Indian Ocean island nation with officials from the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting and its purpose have been of interest to investigators for some time. The fund Dmitriev heads up seeks money from outside investors for infrastructure projects inside Russia, but it was included as part of a sanctions package assembled by the Obama administration in 2014 after Russia invaded Ukraine. Prince has denied that sanctions were discussed.
Nader, who both organized the meeting and attended it, has been cooperating with Mueller since he was stopped during a mid-January trip that took him through Dulles Airport.
While Mueller is probing the circumstances of the Seychelles meeting, he is also more broadly examining apparent efforts by the Trump transition team to create a back-channel for secret talks between the new administration and the Kremlin. […]
Investigators now suspect the Seychelles meeting may have been one of the first efforts to establish such a line of communications between the two governments, these people said. Nader’s account is considered key evidence — but not the only evidence — about what transpired in the Seychelles, according to people familiar with the matter.
It’s perhaps worth remembering here that Jared Kushner reportedly proposed establishing a secret line of communications to the Kremlin during a Trump Tower meeting in early December 2016 with Russian Ambassador Surgey Kislyak. That meeting also included Michael Flynn, now a cooperating witness in the investigation. The Seychelles meeting took place in January 2017, about a week prior to Trump’s inauguration.
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