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Hullabaloo


Friday, March 08, 2019

 
Combat mercenaries for Trump

by digby



Eric Prince is one of the most malevolent figures in American life. His history as a mercenary who ran a murderous "contracting" firm in Iraq is well known. He was also with the Trump family on election night. They're that close.

The Intercept's Mehdi Hasen had the chance to interview him recently and asked him about the Russia investigation:

Toward the end of the interview, I raised the issue of “Russiagate” and the special counsel’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Putin government. Prince was grilled by the House Intelligence Committee over a secret meeting he had in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian oligarch described as a “messenger” to Putin by Prince’s friends in the UAE; the meeting was on January 11, 2017, nine days before Trump’s inauguration. “It lasted one beer,” he told me flippantly, in reference to the Dmitriev meeting, which has been described by U.S., European, and Arab officials as “an apparent effort to establish a backchannel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump.”

But why didn’t Prince tell members of Congress about his other secret meeting, in Trump Tower in August 2016? Especially if it was about a sensitive foreign policy issue like Iran?

“I don’t believe I was asked that question,” he replied.

Not true. I reminded him that he had been asked by a member of the House Intelligence Committee whether he had any “formal communications or contact with the campaign.”

The Blackwater founder then switched tack. He “did” inform the committee about the meeting, Prince told me. Why wasn’t it in the transcript of the hearing then, I countered? “I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong,” he said. Later in the interview, in response to a question from the audience, he doubled down: “Not all the discussion that day was transcribed, and that’s a fact.”

Got that? First, he said he wasn’t asked; then he said he told them about it; then he claimed that they made a mistake with the transcript; then he claimed that it was said off the record.

My understanding — based on a conversation between one of my Al Jazeera English colleagues and a staffer connected to the Intelligence Committee, and also based on public comments made by Rep. Eric Swalwell about Prince being “not truthful” with Congress — is that the off-the-record sections of the transcript contain zero references to the Trump Tower meeting, which was later revealed by the New York Timesand (reluctantly) confirmed to me by Prince on “Head to Head.”

This is a major problem for this major ally of the president. It is, of course, a crime to lie under oath; it is also a crime to lie to a congressional committee, whether you are under oath or not. “Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell,” Vox notes, “was convicted of lying to a Senate committee during the Watergate scandal.”

So I couldn’t help but ask the defensive Prince: Did he not worry that Mueller might send him to prison for not telling the truth, as he did with Gen. Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and others?

“Nope,” he replied, giving me that dead-eyed stare once again, “not at all.”

This is far from over, however. Earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee under its new Democratic chair, Rep. Jerry Nadler, sent out requests for documents to “81 agencies, individuals, and other entities tied to the president” — including Prince — as part of its sweeping investigation into alleged corruption and abuse of power by the president and his associates. In December 2018, Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee told the Daily Beast that the former Blackwater boss had been “discredited” and that they planned to recall him before their panel “even if we have to subpoena him.”

Will Prince have better answers for them than he had for me?

I doubt it.

He is undoubtedly very sure of a pardon. They all are.

The fact that Erik Prince is a trump insider should make everyone who thinks Trump is some kind of non-interventionist think again. Prince wants to privatize warfighting. Of course Trump likes that idea.

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