Mueller examining whether Seychelles meeting aimed at creating back channel


Erik Prince, the founder of controversial private military contractor Blackwater USA, met with an official close to Russian President Vladimir Putin last January in the Seychelles, the small island off the eastern coast of Africa, several people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

The UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russian Federation could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective, according to U.S., European and Arab officials. The Post reported that George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman, helped organize and attended the meeting, and is now cooperating with Mueller's investigation.

Nader has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators.

Prince was never officially part of Trump's transition, but frequently communicated with its members and served as an unofficial representative for it, according to investigators.

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.

Prince is the brother of Trump's Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and contributed $100,000 during the election to a Political Action Committee run by Rebekah Mercer.

Germany's Merkel set for challenges in her fourth term
It also came after Martin Schulz was forced to hand over the reins as chief of the Social Democrat Party. Angela Merkel, also referred to as "Muttie" (mother) Merkel is still a popular choice in her country.

Schiff acknowledged that interviewing Nader possibly rests on securing permission from the investigators in Mueller's probe - permission the panel has not yet requested.

According to the Post, 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. 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.

H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials, including from the UAE, that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report.

"I don't know whether the public reports of what Nader is saying are accurate, but if they are, there's clearly a significant discrepancy between that version and what we heard in Erik Prince's testimony", Schiff said. WaPo's reporting at the time also relied on anonymous sources - the legacy outlet has frequently used such journalistic techniques while reporting on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller is investigating Russia's role and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

Prince, whose sister Betsy DeVos is Trump's education secretary, said a year ago he and Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF, met for about half an hour in a bar in the Indian Ocean country at the suggestion of officials from the United Arab Emirates.