Erik Prince, the founder of the disgraced military contractor formerly known as Blackwater, conducted a secret meeting in early January in the hopes of creating a back channel for then President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The clandestine meeting was held in the Seychelles, a group of islands located in the Indian Ocean, and set up by United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials. Prince, who has been an ardent supporter of Trump, is the brother of Betsy DeVos, the president’s secretary of education.
According to the Washington Post‘s investigation, Prince told the unnamed Russian emissary he was a representative from the incoming Trump administration, albeit unofficially. Prince, in fact, never had any official, public role in Trump’s campaign or transition team, but donated heavily to the GOP presidential campaign and was seen at White House transition offices in New York.
The Post also tied Prince to Trump’s White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
Both the Trump administration and Erik Prince deny that a secret meeting ever took place, but two U.S. intelligence officials confirmed to NBC News the meeting had taken place in January, with one backing up the Post‘s story that claimed the Russian representative was close to Vladimir Putin.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, however, shut down any reports of Prince being an envoy for the president on Monday evening.
“We are not aware of any meetings and Erik Prince had no role in the transition,” Spicer said.
UAE officials, who had no comment to the press, reportedly set up the meeting because they were hopeful the United States could convince Russia to scale back its relationship with both Iran and Syria, who Abu Dhabi sees as a threat.
Seychelles, where the meeting took place, is known for playing host to under-the-radar powwows. According to the Seychelles government, they are aware that their territory is often used for this purpose.
Barry Faure, who serves as the Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs, was less than shocked after learning of the meeting.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all,” said Faure. “The Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media. That’s even printed in our tourism marketing. But I guess this time you smelled something.”
The Kremlin has also denied that they sent a representative to meet Prince, calling it “utter nonsense.”
[Washington Post] [NBC News] [Wall Street Journal] [RT News] [Photo courtesy The Daily Beast]