Blackwater founder held secret meeting with Russian officials to create Trump-Putin back channel

The founder of controversial mercenary firm appears to have established a communications back channel for Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (now Academi) is alleged to have met for two days with a Russian official close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the island nation of Seychelles on or around January 11, 2017 — just a little over a week before Trump was inaugurated — in order to set up a secret line of communication between the two foreign leaders. According to the Washington Post’s conversations with unnamed American, Arab, and European officials, the meeting was initially set up by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Post reports that the UAE’s goal in establishing the meeting was to influence Russia to scale back their involvement with the Iranian government in its operations against ISIS in Syria. The Post‘s Adam Entous, Gregg Miller, Kevin Sieff and Karen DeYoung also wrote that if the Trump administration were successful in its goal of driving a wedge between Russia and Iran, it would likely require that the Trump White House reciprocate by way of severely curtailing or even ending the U.S. government’s existing sanctions on Russia, which former President Barack Obama levied following Putin’s incursion into Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula:

Officials said [UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan] wanted to be helpful to both leaders who had talked about working more closely together, a policy objective long advocated by the crown prince. The UAE, which sees Iran as one of its main enemies, also shared the Trump team’s interest in finding ways to drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran.

In the ongoing FBI investigation over the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian government officials, the meeting has surfaced as a key point of interest, according to the unnamed U.S. officials who spoke to the Post. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has denied any such meeting took place, and said that Erik Prince played no role in the Trump campaign or in the presidential transition.

Prince, who is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is also serving as a secret advisor to President Trump, according to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept. Scahill also reported that Prince donated roughly $100,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Prince has lived in the UAE since 2010, when controversy over his business practices in Iraq reached a boiling point. In 2014, four Blackwater contractors were found guilty on murder, manslaughter, and weapons charges as the result of a 2007 incident known as the Nisour Square massacre, in which they fired indiscriminately into a crowded street, killing over a dozen Iraqis.

 

Kevin Wallace is a journalist with five years’ experience in print and digital media, and covers politics, media, and culture for the Resistance Report. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.