Mueller reportedly has evidence that a Trump associate met with a Kremlin ally in early 2017 to create a secret Trump-Russia backchannel

  • A witness in the Russia investigation has testified that Trump associate Erik Prince helped arrange a 2017 meeting in the Seychelles islands with a Kremlin ally as part of an effort to establish a backchannel of communication between the US and Russia, and to discuss US-Russia relations under the Trump administration. 
  • The revelation appears to contradict Prince's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last year, when he told the panel his meeting with the Kremlin ally, Russian investor Kirill Dmitriev, happened by chance. 
  • The unnamed witness' testimony also comes amid reports that George Nader, an adviser to the Emirati crown prince who attended the Seychelles meeting on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, is cooperating with Mueller and testified before a grand jury earlier this year. 

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The special counsel Robert Mueller has learned from a witness that a 2017 meeting in the Seychelles islands between an associate of President Donald Trump and a top Kremlin ally was arranged in order to establish a backchannel of communication between the US and Russia, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. 

Mueller is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 US election, including whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor. 

The meeting in question was between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Russian investor Kirill Dmitriev. George Nader, a Middle East expert and an adviser to the United Arab Emirates' Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, was also in attendance as the crown prince's representative. 

Nader testified before a grand jury about the meeting earlier this year, and according to The Post, a witness told Mueller that the Seychelles meeting was set up in advance to discuss US-Russia relations. The testimony appears to contradict Prince's account of the meeting before the House Intelligence Committee last year, when he told the panel that it had occurred by chance. 

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

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions 

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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

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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

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CIA Director Mike Pompeo
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Prince reportedly approached Crown Prince Mohammed, with whom he has a long business relationship, following a December 2016 meeting between the prince and senior adviser Jared Kushner, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 

Prince told the Emirati crown prince he was authorized to act as an unofficial surrogate for Trump, and then asked whether Crown Prince Mohammed could set up a meeting with Dmitriev, who heads a sanctioned Russian investment fund and is closely allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

While Nader attended the Seychelles meeting, which took place on January 11, 2017, as Crown Prince Mohammed's representative, Emirati officials believed Prince represented the Trump team and that Dmitriev represented Putin.

Prince told the House Intelligence Committee last year that he knew Dmitriev was a Russian fund manager but did not know it was a sanctioned fund that was controlled by the Russian government.

Prince also denied that he attended the meeting as an official representative of the incoming administration, saying instead that he traveled to the Seychelles to meet with potential business customers from the UAE.

Prince resides in the UAE and has been associated with Nader for over a decade. It is unclear why, if he was interacting with potential Emirati customers, he had to travel to the Seychelles to meet them.  

During the meeting, Prince told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, the customers "mentioned a guy who I should also meet who was also in town," who turned out to be Dmitriev.

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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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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
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"At the end, one of the entourage says, 'Hey, by the way, there’s this Russian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past. 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,'" Prince told lawmakers. 

When he met Dmitriev, they discussed a range of topics, and Dmitriev stressed that he wished Russia and the US could resume normal trade relations, Prince said. He added that they spoke for no more than 30 minutes. 

After the Seychelles meeting, Dmitriev also met with Anthony Scaramucci, who would later become the White House communications director, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Russian state media quoted Scaramucci as saying, after his meeting with Dmitriev, that the Obama administration's new sanctions on Russia — which were imposed that month to penalize it for interfering in the 2016 election — were ineffective and detrimental to the US-Russia relationship.

One month before Prince met with Dmitriev, Kushner also reportedly proposed a secret back-channel of communication between the Trump team and Moscow using Russian facilities. 

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