Transcript: Erik Prince discussed trade, terrorism with Russian banker in Seychelles

Erik Prince founder of Blackwater USA arrives to appear before a closed door session of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill

Erik Prince founder of Blackwater USA arrives to appear before a closed door session of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill

Prince insisted to the House committee he had not acted as a representative of the Trump administration during the meeting with the Emirati dignitaries, though he was close to Bannon and sent him unsolicited policy papers during the campaign.

Prince also said he did not remember when or where he had a conversation with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in which Bannon told Prince he had met MBZ in NY in December, just weeks before Prince traveled to the Seychelles. He also said that Dmitriev discussed how much his country wished to resume normal trade relations with the U.S.

Erik Prince, the one-time Blackwater USA chief who had a remote role in the Donald Trump campaign, told the House Intelligence Committee that the Barrack Obama administration had him under surveillance and "that's illegal".

Prince said he never told Bannon about meeting Dmitriev, and could not recall if he ever told Bannon about his meeting with MBZ.

Prince said he Googled him to see his picture, learned he ran a Russian hedge fund, and looked no further into Dmitriev's connections to the Russian government.

Prince described the arrangement of his meeting with Dmitriev as informal, telling investigators that the real goal of his trip was to meet with Emirati officials to discuss terrorism in the area and "conceptual-only stuff" on mineral-related business. Those meetings were similarly brief, he said.

"It was a matter of, 'Hey, while you're here, there's a Russian guy that we've done some business with in the past, and it'd be interesting for you to meet him, '" Prince told investigators.

Committee Democrats have characterized his answers as incomplete.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, said after the testimony was released that Prince had been less than forthcoming and sought to represent his meeting with Dmitriev as coincidental.

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Prince's testimony from last week was released Wednesday under an agreement with the House Intelligence Committee to be interviewed in a closed setting and later have the transcript made public.

In a statement, Schiff said Prince did not "adequately explain why he traveled halfway around the world to meet with UAE officials or Dmitriev".

At the time, The Post reported that the meeting was part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and then-President-elect Trump.

Prince was called to testify because of the Seychelles meeting on January 11, 2017, which The Washington Post later described as an effort to connect the incoming Trump administration with Moscow.

According to the newspaper, the UAE brokered the meeting "in part" to explore whether Russian Federation might be persuaded to back away from its relationship with Iran and Syria. But Prince declined to provide the committee with many specifics of his discussion with Bannon.

"Unless The Washington Post has somehow miraculously recruited the bartender of a hotel in the Seychelles, the only way that's happening is through SIGINT", he said.

Prince said he had traveled to the Seychelles for a business meeting with UAE officials, who included Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and they suggested he talk to Dmitriev.

"That comes back to my concern about, what is the community going to do about unlawful leaking and the political abuse of the intelligence apparatus that affects Americans?" he said. Prince refused during the interview to identify those who he claimed told him that he had been unmasked.

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