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Congresswoman Confirms Erik Prince Tied to Intelligence Operation Run Out of Dick Cheney’s Office

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On one of the latest episodes of Jeremy Scahill’s podcast “Intercepted,” he interviews Democratic Congressmember Jan Schakowsky about Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, who is now under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. For more, we speak with Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, before this show ends, I want to switch gears a bit and play an excerpt of the latest episode of your podcast, Intercepted, where you interview Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky about Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, sister [sic] of Betsy DeVos, the billionaire education—

JEREMY SCAHILL: Brother of Betsy DeVos.

AMY GOODMAN: Brother of Betsy DeVos, Erik Prince now under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Now, I remember when President Obama was elected and Leon Panetta was serving as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Panetta went to Capitol Hill early on in the first year of the Obama administration, and he emerged from his meetings with you guys on the Intelligence Committee and said that there had been an assassination program involving Erik Prince and Blackwater, but that had been shut down. What can you tell us about that chapter in all of this, Erik Prince, Blackwater being involved with a CIA assassination program?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Yeah, I can’t—I really can’t, I don’t think even at this point, tell. We did a study on the committee. I had insisted on it. And we actually—and it’s on the shelf, and I’ve encouraged current members of the Intelligence Committee to take a look, especially as they’re investigating Erik Prince right now. But when I say anything goes when it comes to Erik Prince—and, of course, you know, he was working closely with the Bush administration, and there were operations, intelligence operations, that were coming out of the Vice President’s Office, and he was a valuable player in carrying out what they may have defined as the mission.

And Erik is, I think, one frightening guy. One of the current members of the Intelligence Committee said, even after the testimony they had, that he’s the scariest person he ever met. I have to tell you, Jeremy, you know, at one point, because on the floor of the House, members can say whatever they want, without liability, and he threatened to sue me. I got a letter from their lawyers. And even though he couldn’t sue me, I have to tell you, I had my apartment in Washington swept. He makes me very nervous.

But this time, I think that Mueller may actually be catching up with Erik Prince and the kind of lies that just roll off his lips, the kind of description of what he’s done, what he did in the past, which is clearly not true. Lying to Congress is against the law. And, you know, what a coincidence that he met with all these people in the Seychelles! Isn’t that amazing?

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois talking about Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater. A lot to unpack there, also talking about the Seychelles meeting of Erik Prince in January. Tell us about it.

JEREMY SCAHILL: OK. So, in short, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, we broke the story that he was advising Donald Trump from the shadows. A few weeks later, The Washington Post says that Erik Prince was in the Seychelles in a meeting arranged by powerful people in the United Arab Emirates. Erik Prince also used to live in the United Arab Emirates, very close to all of the—

AMY GOODMAN: When he fled the United States.

JEREMY SCAHILL: When he fled the United States in the middle of Obama’s first term. So, Erik Prince goes there. He’s meeting with these Emiratis. And according to him, they say, “Oh, there’s this fund manager that you have to meet from Russia named Kirill Dmitriev.” And Erik Prince says, “Oh, OK, sure.” And they go, and Erik Prince says he met with him long enough to have a beer.

Well, it turns out that this guy Kirill Dmitriev is a very close associate of Vladimir Putin and operates a $10 billion fund. And, now, we don’t know the truth of what happened there, but what we do know is now a guy named George Nader, who was—who worked with Erik Prince and Blackwater in Iraq and has been visiting the Trump White House all through 2017, he reportedly testified in front of a grand jury and is cooperating with Mueller and says that the explicit purpose of Erik Prince taking this meeting with this Russian oligarch was to establish a back channel for Donald Trump and the Russians.

Now, even if that’s true, that probably isn’t illegal or illicit for Erik Prince to have done that. But it is, as Jan Schakowsky points out, illegal to lie to Congress about it. And so, Erik Prince now continues to be the focus of yet another sort of national security scandal. The connection also to the broader picture is that Erik Prince was involved with this CIA assassination program from very early after 9/11, and Jose Rodriguez, who was Gina Haspel’s boss, was the CIA—

AMY GOODMAN: Who we just played.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Who we just played—was the CIA liaison for that program that Jan Schakowsky is talking about. To hear a sitting member of Congress say that she had to get her house swept for surveillance devices because of a civilian that the Congress is investigating is pretty chilling.

AMY GOODMAN: And we just have 20 seconds, but the significance of her comments about Prince and Cheney?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, for a long time, a lot of us national security reporters have heard that Dick Cheney’s office was coordinating a whole series of torture and targeted kidnapping and kill operations around the globe, and that Erik Prince and Dick Cheney are very close. This is the first time that you have a member of Congress who had access to high-level, top-secret intel, as part of the Intelligence Committee, confirming that Erik Prince was involved with operations that were being run directly by Vice President Dick Cheney. In the whole scheme of things, as everyone focuses on Trump’s tweets, etc., the—

AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.

JEREMY SCAHILL: What happened under Bush-Cheney needs to be investigated, and Erik Prince needs to be held accountable, not just for lying, but for killing a lot of Iraqis.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to do Part 2. I want to thank Jeremy Scahill, John Kiriakou and Lee Fang.

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