Ever wonder how someone as spacey as Betsy DeVos got to be Secretary of Education? There are two reasons: her mega-wealthy family has donated $20.2 million to the GOP, and her brother is the founder of the military-for-hire Blackwater. Now, it looks as if brother Erik Prince just pulled a load of trouble onto himself during his congressional testimony.
The committee has been investigating Russia’s meddling in the U.S.’s 2016 presidential election and whether Donald Trump’s campaign was involved with it.
The Blackwater founder met with the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors November 30. The committee just released the details of that hearing Wednesday. Prince met secretly with a Russian banker in April but denied that it was on Trump’s behalf.
Erik Prince offered to set up a secret spy network for Trump after he became president, according to CNN.
Prince met with a man close to Russian President Vladimir Putin to allegedly set up a back channel for the two presidents to communicate outside of the U.S. federal law enforcement’s reach. Newsweek reported that DeVos’ brother:
‘Presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump.’
Prince testified that a prince from the United Arab Emirates, whom he knew, asked him to come to the Seychelles Islands, which are located 1,500 miles east of the coast of Africa, to talk about business opportunities. The Blackwater founder claimed that he was “neither an official nor unofficial” envoy from the Trump campaign or the presidential transition team.
According to Newsweek, he admitted that he had:
‘…interacted with Trump and other members of the campaign and transition teams.’
During his testimony, DeVos’ brother discussed the meeting between a Russian national and himself. That Russian thought it would be a good idea for Prince to meet with a Russian banker named Kirill Dmitriev who just happened to be on the islands.
The Russian told Prince:
‘You should meet him. He’d be an interesting guy for you to know. He’ll be down in the bar area after dinner, if you wanted to meet this guy.’
The American and the Russian met in the hotel bar and talked about “oil and commodity prices and trade” between the two countries. In other words, they talked about lifting the sanctions President Barack Obama placed on Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential elections:
‘How the United States and Russia should be working together to defeat Islamic terrorism. I remember telling him that if Franklin Roosevelt could work with Joseph Stalin to defeat fascism, certainly the United States could work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islamic fascism.’
As it turned out, Dmitriev is the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. This is a “sovereign wealth fund” that the U.S. has sanctioned since 2015. Prince claimed the two did not talk about sanctions, and they talked for less than half an hour. During that time, the Russian told DeVos’ brother:
‘…how much he wished trade would resume with the United States in a normal way.’
Prince was not having a good time sitting in the hearing. Once, he said:
‘Now listen. It’s 5:30. I haven’t been home in a week. I flew in this morning from Africa, and I’ve had about enough of this. So thank you.’
Democratic ranking member Representative Adam Schiff of California pulled no punches. If Prince did not cooperate, they would subpoena him. In response, Prince advised the committee to investigate which intelligence member leaked the details of his meeting.
After the hearing, Prince stopped to talk to reporters. He said Schiff owed him an apology for:
‘…wasting all of our time, for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a meaningless fishing expedition.’
Schiff said told reporters that the witness had been “less than forthcoming.”
Featured Image via Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla.