The Washington Post is reporting that Blackwater founder Erik Prince secretly met with a Russian close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in efforts to establish a secret back channel between Trump and Putin in the days before Trump’s inauguration. The meeting was reportedly held in the Seychelles and was arranged by high-ranking Emirati officials. The article says Prince represented himself as an unofficial representative for Trump.
Unnamed U.S. officials told the Post the FBI is looking into the Seychelles meeting as part of its investigation over whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in efforts to influence the 2016 election.
The White House denies Prince was an unofficial envoy for Trump, and says Prince had no official role within the transition team. However, Prince has ties both to Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, as well as to Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who is Prince’s sister. Citing unnamed officials, the Post reports Prince was frequently referenced in internal Trump transition team conversations, suggesting he acted as a form of outside adviser. Prince also donated $250,000 to elect Donald Trump.
Prince is the founder of the now-defunct private paramilitary company Blackwater, whose guards were convicted of killing civilians in Iraq in 2007.