A critical Russia probe witness may have poked a huge hole in the Trump team's story about a mysterious Seychelles meeting

 

  • George Nader, a little-known but critical witness in the Russia probe, has reportedly contradicted key portions of Trump associate Erik Prince's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last year. 
  • Prince told lawmakers that his meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a sanctioned Russian investment fund in the Seychelles in January 2017 happened by chance, and that he was introduced to the Russian by potential business customers in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Nader, meanwhile, has reportedly told prosecutors that the Seychelles meeting was set up in advance to open a Trump-Russia back-channel, and that the Emirates were not the ones who introduced Prince and Dmitriev. 

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George Nader, a top adviser to Emirati crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and a critical witness in the Russia probe, contradicted key points in Trump associate Erik Prince's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, The Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday. 

Nader and Prince met in the Seychelles in January 2017 with Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of a sanctioned Russian investment fund and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting has drawn scrutiny from the special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates whether it took place as part of an effort to open a secret back-channel between the incoming Trump administration and Russia. 

Prince, who resides in the United Arab Emirates, told the House Intelligence Committee last year that his meeting with Dmitriev had occurred by chance as he was meeting potential Emirati business contacts in the Seychelles. 

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

"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.

Meanwhile, Nader told prosecutors earlier this year that the Emirati delegation did not introduce Prince and Dmitriev, The Journal reported. 

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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 

(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

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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

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo
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Emirati officials were also under the impression that Prince was attending the meeting as a surrogate for then President-elect Donald Trump's team, while Dmitriev was representing Putin's interests. Nader testified before a grand jury about the meeting earlier this year, and according to The Washington Post, a witness told Mueller that the Seychelles meeting was set up in advance to discuss US-Russia relations.

But Prince denied that in his testimony last year, saying he attended the meeting strictly for business purposes. 

The Post reported last year that Prince 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, then-incoming White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and then-incoming 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, the report said.

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.

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.

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Anthony Scaramucci
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Anthony Scaramucci
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci accompanies U.S. President Donald Trump for an event about his proposed U.S. government effort against the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, with a gathering of federal, state and local law enforcement officials in Brentwood, New York, U.S. July 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci speaks during an on air interview at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci takes questions at the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders greets new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci at the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci, aide to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, arrives in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. Trump said his administration would produce a full report on hacking within the first 90 days of his presidency and accused 'my political opponents and a failed spy' of making 'phony allegations' against him. Photographer: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci talks to the media outside the White House in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Anthony Scaramucci, SkyBridge Capital Founder and aide to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 17 - 20. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Anthony Scaramucci, founder of SkyBridge Capital LLC, speaks during the Skybridge Alternatives (SALT) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. The SALT Conference facilitates balanced discussions and debates on macro-economic trends, geo-political events and alternative investment opportunities for the year ahead. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Anthony Scaramucci, Founder and Managing Partner of SkyBridge Capital, speaks at the Volatility as the New Normal event in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 21, 2015. More than 1,500 business leaders and 40 heads of state or government will attend the Jan. 21-24 meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) to network and discuss big themes, from the price of oil to the future of the Internet. This year they are meeting in the midst of upheaval, with security forces on heightened alert after attacks in Paris, the European Central Bank considering a radical government bond-buying programme and the safe-haven Swiss franc rocketing. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich (SWITZERLAND - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: Anthony Scaramucci attends SkyBridge Capital Holiday Celebration at Hunt & Fish Club on December 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: Eric Bolling and Anthony Scaramucci attend SkyBridge Capital Holiday Celebration at Hunt & Fish Club on December 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27: Deidre Scaramucci and Anthony Scaramucci attend 'Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole' Anthony Scaramucci Book Party on October 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27: Anthony Scaramucci attends the 'Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole' Anthony Scaramucci Book Party on October 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27: Susan Scaramucci Mandato and Anthony Scaramucci attend 'Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole' Anthony Scaramucci Book Party on October 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Anthony Scaramucci and Maria Bartiromo host FOX Business Network's 'Wall Street Week' at FOX Studios on April 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
Anthony Scaramucci, founder of SkyBridge Capital II LLC, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Scaramucci, economic adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, discussed the accuracy of polls in the U.S. presidential election and Trump's economic policy and support of free trade. Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Anthony Scaramucci, managing partner of SkyBridge Capital LLC, speaks during a gala event at the Skybridge Alternatives (SALT) Asia conference in Singapore, on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. SkyBridge Capital LLC, the $6.7 billion fund of hedge funds that organizes the biggest industry event in the U.S., plans to increase investments in Asia as it kicks off its first conference in the region. Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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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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