Here's what you should know about the secret Seychelles meeting

A mysterious January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles between a close associate of President Donald Trump and a Russian banker with alleged ties to Vladimir Putin has come under renewed scrutiny this week.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been gathering evidence about the rendezvous, which took place less than two weeks before Trump’s inauguration. Mueller is reportedly looking to see if the meeting was meant to set up a secret back channel between Trump and Putin, the Russian president. George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates who was at the meeting, has been cooperating with Mueller’s probe, and it appears his testimony could help unlock several major questions about the affair.

Here’s what you should know about the Seychelles meeting.

RELATED: People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe

11 PHOTOS
People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe
See Gallery
People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions 

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former FBI Director James Comey

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump advisor Stephen Miller

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner 

(bBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Don McGahn, general counsel for the Trump transition team

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who compiled the reported Trump dossier 

(Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sam Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

 

Why was there a secret meeting in the Seychelles?

The UAE arranged the meeting in the Seychelles Islands in January 2017, just days before Trump assumed office, The Washington Post first reported last April. The location may have been chosen for its relative discretion.

“The Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media,” the country’s secretary of state for foreign affairs told the Post at the time.

Erik Prince, a longtime supporter of Trump’s campaign and the founder of the Blackwater private security firm, met with a Russian official linked to Putin, although Prince has described the meeting as an unplanned chance encounter.

It’s not clear what Prince and the official talked about. But according to The New York Times, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, eventual national security adviser Michael Flynn and then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak discussed the possibility of setting up the communications channel in a December 2016 meeting.

The Washington Post also received an anonymous letter claiming that Kushner, Kislyak and Flynn “talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a ‘Russian contact’” in an unidentified third country. The Post’s Adam Entous told MSNBC that the letter said “Flynn was deemed too high-profile to do the trip.”

Kushner has denied that the request took place.

RELATED: Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

27 PHOTOS
Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
See Gallery
Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

 

Who else was there?

Prince met with Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian banker who manages a government-controlled wealth fund and is also thought to be close to Putin.

The meeting was set up by the UAE and the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Nader served as a representative for the Middle Eastern nation and had met Prince before, serving as a consultant for Blackwater.

Prince has said he went to the Seychelles as a private businessman, and has denied the original report by the Post. He told the House Intelligence Committee in November that he had no plans to meet with Dmitriev, but Emirati officials convinced him to go to the bar at the hotel he was staying in to have a drink.

“One of the entourage says, ‘Hey, by the way, there’s this Russian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past,’” Prince told lawmakers. “‘He’s here also to see someone from the Emirati delegation. And you should meet him, he’d be an interesting guy for you to know, since you’re doing a lot in the oil and gas and mineral space.’”

He claimed they only spoke about oil prices and how much the UAE “wished for resumption of normal trade relations with the USA.”

RELATED: Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective

14 PHOTOS
Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
See Gallery
Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
June 7: The 2016 primary season essentially concludes, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the presumptive party nominees
June 9: Donald Trump Jr. — along with Jared Kushner and former campaign chair Paul Manafort — meets with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
June 9: Trump tweets about Clinton's missing 33,000 emails
July 18: Washington Post reports, on the first day of the GOP convention, that the Trump campaign changed the Republican platform to ensure that it didn't call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces
July 21: GOP convention concludes with Trump giving his speech accepting the Republican nomination
July 22: WikiLeaks releases stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee
July 25: Democratic convention begins
July 27: In final news conference of his 2016 campaign, Trump asks Russia: "If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing"
August 4: Obama CIA Director John Brennan confronts his Russian counterpart about Russia's interference. "[I] told him if you go down this road, it's going to have serious consequences, not only for the bilateral relationship, but for our ability to work with Russia on any issue, because it is an assault on our democracy," Brennan said on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
October 4: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange says his organization will publish emails related to the 2016 campaign
October 7: WikiLeaks begins releasing Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta's emails
October 7: Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence release a statement directly saying that Russia is interfering in the 2016 election
October 31: "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Trump says on the campaign trail
November 4: "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Trump says from Ohio.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

 

What is Mueller investigating?

Nader has been cooperating with Mueller’s probe since mid-January and recently gave testimony about his knowledge of the meeting in front of a grand jury, according to a report in the Times this week. He allegedly served as a representative of the crown prince, and the Times notes that Emirati officials believed Prince was serving as a representative of the Trump transition team and Dmitriev as an envoy from the Kremlin.

In an earlier story, the Times noted that Mueller has widened the scope of his probe and is also investigating whether the Emiratis were attempting to buy influence with Trump.

Nader’s recent testimony could contradict Prince’s statements over the past year and shed light on the true reasons for the meeting.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.