A leaked memo revealed details of a secret meeting between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The New York Times reported that Prince, a supporter of President Donald Trump and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, attended a secret meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian fund manager. The meeting was organized by George Nader, an adviser to the leader of the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting between Prince and Kirill Dmitriev, who manages a Russian sovereign wealth fund and is believed to be close to Putin, took place on January 11, 2017, just weeks after Trump's son-in-law reportedly told the Russians that he wanted to set up a back-channel between Trump and the Russian president.
Prince denied attempting to set up such a back-channel in sworn testimony to Congress. He claimed that he traveled to the Seychelles for business and unexpectedly ran into Dmitriev.
“I met him in the hotel bar, and we chatted on topics ranging from oil and commodity prices to how much his country wishes for resumption of normal trade relations with the — relationship with the USA,” he testified at the time. “I remember telling him that if Franklin Roosevelt could work with Josef Stalin to defeat Nazi fascism, then certainly Donald Trump could work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islamic fascism.”
“The meeting ended after a maximum of 30 minutes,” he added. “I’ve had no communications or dealing with him or any of his colleagues before or after that encounter last January.”
But Nader, who is cooperating with special counsel Bob Mueller's investigation, reportedly testified to the grand jury that the meeting was “an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin,” according to The Washington Post, which added that Mueller has additional evidence to corroborate the claim.
On Wednesday, The Daily Beast obtained a memo from Dmitriev shedding light on what the two discussed.
The memo includes such topics as setting up joint U.S.-Russian raids to go after wanted terrorists, having an American government agency work with Dmitriev's sanctioned Russian fund, and for Moscow to invest large sums of money in the Midwest.
The first point in the memo is a proposal for joint U.S.-Russia raids in Syria against ISIS, a move proposed by disgraced former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. According to the memo, the plan was to create a 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.”
Prince has publicly supported closer U.S.-Russia relations on terror.
The second point proposed “a serious joint effort by U.S. and Russia to actively address the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical (WMD) terror.”
The third point called for the U.S. and Russia to create “win-win economic investment initiatives that will be supported by both electorates.”
“Understanding U.S. production by foreign companies is a focus of the new administration,” the memo said, adding that Russian firms would “make investments with RDIF financing to serve the U.S. market in the Midwest, creating real jobs for hard hit area with high employment.”
The point appears to go straight to the heart of Trump's economic message of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the Midwest.
The final point called for the two countries to have an “honest and open and continual dialogue on differences and concerns.”
The memo goes on to propose a working group of “2-3 people from each side authorized to finalize an action plan for a major improvement in the U.S.-Russia relationship” and proposes “coordination across major agencies and government bodies to achieve tangible impact in the next 9-12 months.”
Prince, who could face federal charges if it can be proven he lied about his discussions with Dmitriev, insisted through a spokesperson that he is standing by his story.
“Mr. Prince told The Daily Beast everything there is to say when he interviewed in June, nothing has changed,” a spokesperson for the billionaire told the outlet.
Obama Pentagon official Evelyn Farkas told The Daily Beast the points in the memo mirror repeated Russian proposals that previous administrations were uninterested in.
“It’s nothing new,” she told The Daily Beast. “What is new is that they’re trying to do this through this weird backchannel.”
Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut, went a step further.
“This just feels to me like one more of the half-dozen examples of Russians sticking their tentacles out to see what kind of relationships they might build, what kind of influence they might have,” he said.