Mueller's New Focus Is a Familiar Name
Blackwater founder Erik Prince's meeting with a Russian businessman under scrutiny
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2018 8:09 AM CST
Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee, Nov. 30, 2017.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(Newser) – Robert Mueller's Russia investigation has a complex new focus: a meeting between Trump ally Erik Prince and a Russian businessman that took place in the archipelago nation of Seychelles just a few days before President Trump's inauguration. The meeting has been previously reported. In fact, Prince—founder of the security firm Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—testified to a House panel about it last year. But Democrats now think that Prince misled them about the meeting's importance, reports CNN. Prince told lawmakers that the meeting came about by chance while he was there on his own business to meet with officials from the United Arab Emirates. But the Washington Post reports that the meeting appears to have been arranged in advance as a way to set up a "back channel" between the Trump White House and the Kremlin.

The key new player that has emerged in all this is Lebanese-American businessman George Nader. He set up the meeting between Prince and Kirill Dmitriev and is now cooperating with Mueller's investigation, per the Post. If that name rings a bell, it's because the New York Times just reported on Nader, and on how Mueller is interested in whether the UAE—yes, the nation Prince was meeting with on business—tried to "buy political influence" with the incoming Trump administration. If Prince was actually trying to set up a back channel to the Kremlin after the election, so what? For one thing, "it would demolish months’ worth of denials from both him and the White House that he was doing any such thing," notes Vox. "And it would raise serious questions about just why, exactly, all parties involved were so set on keeping the Seychelles meeting secret."

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