- Erik Prince, an associate of President Donald Trump who acted as an informal campaign adviser, acknowledged for the first time that he attended an August 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between top campaign officials and others offering the Trump team help in winning the 2016 election.
- Last week, Prince told Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss "Iran policy."
- Prince did not disclose the meeting when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017, according to a transcript of his testimony.
- But when Hasan pointed that out, Prince said he did tell lawmakers about the meeting, adding, "I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong."
- The committee recently turned over all its transcripts of interviews related to the Russia probe to the special counsel Robert Mueller for possible perjury prosecutions.
Erik Prince, an associate of President Donald Trump, acknowledged for the first time last week that he attended a meeting at Trump Tower in August 2016 with top Trump campaign officials and others embroiled in the Russia investigation.
The New York Times first reported on the meeting last May. Citing several people with knowledge of the gathering, the report said it was convened "primarily to offer help to the Trump team [in winning the election], and it forged relationships between [the individuals who attended the meeting] and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office."
According to The Times, the meeting was attended by Prince; Donald Trump Jr.; Stephen Miller, a White House policy adviser; George Nader, an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; and Joel Zamel, an Israeli social-media specialist.
Prince testified before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017 as part of the panel’s ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. He did not disclose the August 2016 Trump Tower meeting to the committee, according to a transcript of his testimony.
Last week, Prince acknowledged the meeting for the first time when Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan asked him about it.
"How come you didn’t mention that meeting to Congress, given it’s so relevant to their investigation?" Hasan asked.
"I did," Prince said. "As part of the investigations, I certainly disclosed any meetings. The very, very few I had —"
"Not in the congressional testimony you gave to the House," Hasan interjected. "We went through it. You didn’t mention anything about the August 2016 meeting in Trump Tower. They specifically asked you what context do you have, and you didn’t answer that."
Prince replied: "I don’t believe I was asked that question."
"You were asked, were there any formal communications or contact with the campaign," Hasan said as he held up a copy of the transcript. "You said, ‘Apart from writing papers, putting out yard signs, no.’ That’s what you said. I’ve got the transcript of the conversation here."
"Sure," Prince said. "I — I might’ve been — I think I was at Trump headquarters or the campaign headquarters, maybe —"
"Trump Tower. August 3, 2016," Hasan said. "You, an Israeli dude, a back channel to the Emiratis and the Saudis, Don Jr., Stephen Miller."
"We were there to talk about Iran policy," Prince said.
Associated Press/Jacquelyn Martin
Prince: ‘I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong’
When Hasan asked him again why he didn’t disclose the meeting to the House Intelligence Committee while under oath, Prince said, "I did."
"You didn’t," Hasan repeated. "We just went through the testimony. There’s no mention of the Trump Tower meeting in August 2016. Why not?"
"I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong," Prince said, as the audience burst into laughter. "I don’t know. I remember — I remember certainly discussing it."
The August meeting came less than two months after another meeting between top campaign officials and two Russian lobbyists offering the Trump campaign dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign. That meeting was attended by Trump Jr., senior adviser Jared Kushner, and then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Trump Jr. initially said the June 2016 meeting had nothing to do with campaign business, but it later surfaced that he accepted it after it was pitched to him as "part of Russia and its government’s support for" Trump’s candidacy.
The House Intelligence Committee recently turned over all transcripts of interviews related to its Russia probe to the special counsel Robert Mueller for possible prosecutions on perjury charges.
Mueller’s team has already secured several guilty pleas from individuals who admitted to lying to the FBI or to Congress. Prosecutors are also currently preparing to put the longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone on trial for lying to Congress, among other charges.
"This is a problem for you because we know that Robert Mueller, he hasn’t been able to establish collusion yet, but he has got a lot of guys for lying to the authorities and not telling the whole truth," Hasan said to Prince. "Is that a problem now? That even if you accidentally didn’t tell them, that could come back and haunt you?"
"I fully cooperated," Prince said. "And I haven’t heard from anybody in more than nine months."
House intel chairman Adam Schiff: ‘There’s nothing wrong with our transcript’
Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said over the weekend that Prince was not being truthful in the interview with Hasan.
"There’s nothing wrong with our transcript," Schiff told NBC’s "Meet The Press."
"There was nothing wrong with the reporter who transcribed his testimony. He did not disclose that meeting to our committee," Schiff added. He also said Prince’s comments in the interview seemed "inconsistent" with his testimony before the committee, adding that Mueller "will have to make the decision about whether that rises to the level of deliberate falsehood."
Lawmakers have also accused Prince of misleading them about another meeting he attended with Nader and Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of a sanctioned Russian bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in January 2017.
The meeting, which took place in Seychelles, has drawn scrutiny from Mueller and congressional investigators looking into whether it took place as part of an effort to open a secret back-channel line of communication between the incoming Trump administration and Russia.
Prince told the committee the meeting had occurred by chance and that the Emiratis — whom Nader frequently represents — had introduced him to Dmitriev.
But according to The Wall Street Journal, Nader told prosecutors earlier this year that the Emirati delegation did not introduce Prince and Dmitriev.
Emirati officials were also under the impression that Prince was attending the meeting as a surrogate for Trump’s team while Dmitriev was representing Putin’s interests.
Nader testified before a grand jury about the meeting in early 2018. According to The Washington Post, a witness told Mueller that the Seychelles meeting was set up in advance to discuss US-Russia relations.
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