House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that he will ask the Justice Department to consider prosecuting Donald Trump ally Erik Prince for lying to Congress under oath.
The move could result in one more criminal conviction based on the work of special counsel Robert Mueller. The redacted version of the Mueller report revealed that Prince and his associates had given Congress and the counsel’s team two very different explanations for meetings he held with influential Russian banker Kirill Dmitriev in the Seychelles in January 2017.
Based on interviews and reviews of call records, text messages, emails and other data, Mueller said Prince planned his trip knowing Dmitriev would be there and was seeking to pitch Trump’s circle on U.S.-Russia cooperation. Prince later discussed the encounter with fellow Trump adviser Steve Bannon, according to Mueller’s team. Prince denied both acts to lawmakers on Nov. 30, 2017.
“I do believe that there is very strong evidence that he willingly misled the committee and made false statements to the committee and later today we’ll be making a criminal referral to the Justice Department,” Schiff said Tuesday at a Washington Post event.
ASSOCIATED PRESS House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff rushing to a vote during a committee hearing on Russia on March 28.
Prince, who founded a mercenary firm called Blackwater that became infamous for killing civilians in Iraq, donated to Trump’s election campaign and is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He has tried throughout the Trump administration to sell his services to help the president and his allies achieve their foreign policy goals, most notably in Afghanistan and most recently in Venezuela.
It’s not immediately clear whether the Justice Department will end up prosecuting Prince. Investigators will have to consider whether the information indicating that Prince lied can be used in court. Many of the details appear to have come from Prince himself, and he revealed them during interviews held on the understanding that information he offered wouldn’t be used against him.
Mueller had several other sources for the section on the Seychelles affair, at least one of which remains secret. Together, they could allow for a successful case.
“That is something the Justice Department will need to carefully scrutinize,” Schiff said.
But some of the best potential evidence is already unavailable: text messages between Prince and Bannon from around the time of the conversations with the Russia have disappeared. Both men told Mueller they didn’t know where the texts had gone.
“Somehow, mysteriously, magically, the communications between Mr. Prince and Mr. Bannon have apparently fled their devices,” Schiff said.
Bannon stonewalled on almost every question, citing instructions from the White House, during his testimony before the House intelligence panel, Schiff added.
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