Erik Prince is a real tough guy.
Prince, a former Navy Seal and the founder of the infamous private military firm Blackwater (which had to change its name after a group of its privateers was convicted of murdering 14 Iraqi civilians in an incident in Baghdad), was called to testify in a closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee about his role in establishing a backchannel communications link to the Kremlin during President Trump’s transition period.
He was not happy about the three-hour interrogation, and he let Representative Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the committee, know exactly how he felt.
“Now listen. It’s 5:30. I haven’t been home in a week. I flew in this morning from Africa, and I’ve had about enough of this. So thank you,” Prince told Schiff.
Not many people act this arrogantly while being deposed in front of Congress, but not many people are as tough as Erik Prince. After all, he grew up with Betsy DeVos as his older sister. That’ll toughen up anyone.
Last April, The Washington Post reported about a secret meeting between Prince and a Russian envoy:
“The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.”
“The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.”
With charges like that being bandied about, the House Intelligence Committee needed to hear from Prince as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the election and possible Trump campaign collusion. Prince, of course, denied everything.
He said he had no role whatsoever in the Trump campaign, despite having provided policy papers to Steve Bannon, who was running Trump’s candidacy. He claimed to have gone to the Seychelles islands to discuss business with a prince from the United Arab Emirates, who casually suggested while they were there that the Amercian private army operator should meet with “an interesting guy for you to know.”
That guy turned out to be Russian banker Kirill Dmitriev, who just happened to be one of the many of Putin’s cadre of oligarchs hit hard by U.S. sanctions imposed by the Obama administration weeks earlier in retaliation for screwing with the elections.
Prince claims that they talked about how nice it would be if Russia and the U.S. could team up to defeat Islamic terrorism like FDR and Stalin did with the fight against Hitler. He also claims that they didn’t discuss sanctions at all, but the Dmitriev may have expressed a wish that “trade would resume with the United States in a normal way.”
Despite Prince’s tough talk, Rep. Schiff was sick of his evasiveness in responding to questions like why he would travel halfway around the world for a meeting that could have been conducted by phone or Skype. While Prince was trying to convince the committee that they should spend their time trying to find out who leaked the story of his meeting rather than ask him about what actually happened in the meeting, Schiff revealed his own tough-guy tactics, the threat of a subpoena that would force Prince to return to Congress to testify fully.
After it was over, Prince attacked the committee for wasting taxpayer on a “fishing expedition”, while Rep. Schiff issued the following statement:
“Prince was again less than forthcoming and sought to represent that his discussion with Dmitriev, which comprised a third of the time he was conducting meetings in the Seychelles, was merely coincidental. Prince also could not adequately explain why he traveled halfway around the world to meet with UAE officials and, ultimately, the head of the Russian fund.”
Has Erik Prince met his match in Adam Schiff? It looks like we’ll have to wait for the rematch to figure that one out, but Prince may have another bout coming that will be in a completely different league when Robert Mueller’s scouts finish checking him out.