(WASHINGTON) — The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., plans to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department about Trump campaign supporter Erik Prince’s congressional testimony, arguing he “willingly misled the committee.”
Schiff accused Prince, a military contractor who founded Blackwater and whose sister, Betsy DeVos, serves as President Donald Trump’s secretary of Education, of making false statements to Congress about his meeting with a Russian banker in January of 2017, shortly before Trump’s inauguration.
The meeting in the Seychelles Islands raised suspicions with investigators that the two were trying to set up a back-channel between the Kremlin and the Trump administration.
Both publicly and before the House Intelligence Committee during testimony in November of 2017, Prince has sought to paint the meeting as a chance encounter “over a beer,” insisting he “didn’t fly there to meet any Russian guy.”
He testified that he traveled to Seychelles for a meeting with United Arab Emirates officials about possible business opportunities, and they introduced him to Russian investment fund manager Kirill Dmitriev.
But Schiff, after reviewing a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, suggested otherwise.
“We know from the Mueller report now that it was not a chance meeting, that he had preparatory materials about him before he left,” Schiff said Tuesday. “He was also asked whether he was attempting to establish a backchannel for the Trump transition or campaign, which he also denied.”
“So in very material ways, I think the evidence strongly suggests that he willingly misled our committee and the Justice Department needs to consider whether to make a prosecutable case,” Schiff added.
Last year, Dmitriev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggested to ABC News that he had wanted to meet with Prince in order to improve relations between the U.S and Russia.
“I cannot comment much more on this meeting— all I can say is that we are meeting hundreds of business people throughout the year and we believe that the goal of restoring U.S.-Russia relations is a good one, it’s a noble one and we want to unite different people who want to restore U.S.-Russia relations,” Dmitriev told ABC News.
Prince has said that the Seychelles meeting was leaked to the news media in an illegal “unmasking” of his identity. A spokesman for Prince did not immediately comment on Tuesday.
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