Blackwater founder Erik Prince established a back-channel for President-elect Donald Trump to communicate with a source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in January, reports The Washington Post.
The secret meeting between various U.S., European and Arab officials took place January in the Seychelles islands — about nine days before Trump’s inauguration, reports The Washington Post. Moreover, officials said the United Arab Emirates brokered the meeting for the purpose of seeing whether Russia would be willing to decrease its support for Iran, especially in Syria, as the UAE is a long-standing enemy of Iran.
Officials also said Prince acted in an unofficial capacity as an envoy for the Trump camp.
This meeting has since been under FBI scrutiny as part of the agency’s investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
“We are not aware of any meetings and Erik Prince had no role in the transition,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told The Washington Post.
A similar denial came from Prince’s side. A spokesman for Prince said that the meeting had nothing to do whatsoever with Trump and called the reporting a “fabrication.”
“Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?” the spokesman said.
Government officials from Seychelles said that they had no knowledge of any meeting resembling a back-channel between Trump and Putin contacts.
But they would not rule out the possibility.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all,” Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs Barry Faure told The Washington Post. “The Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media. That’s even printed in our tourism marketing. But I guess this time you smelled something.”
According to officials, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, set up the meeting once approached by Prince, who said he was authorized to act as an informal surrogate.
Zayed agreed and brought in the Putin contact, as he “wanted to be helpful.”
Both the UAE and Russia thought the meeting on the topic of one of the United States’ long-standing geopolitical goals was useful, but no future meetings were scheduled.
In January, The Intercept reported that Prince was advising the incoming Trump administration on intelligence and defense issues and also commenting on various candidates for government positions. Prince’s sister also serves as secretary of education for the Trump administration.
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