Erik Prince to face criminal referral for alleged false statements to Congress

Elias Hubbard
May 1, 2019

The Democratic-run panel's request represented the latest shot fired in an escalating battle between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration over findings of the report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller released on April 18.

"I do believe that there is a very strong evidence that he willingly misled the committee and made false statements to the committee and later today, we will be making a criminal referral to the Justice Department", Schiff said during a televised interview with the Washington Post.

In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, Schiff said Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials "strongly indicates that Erik Prince knowingly and willfully provided materially false testimony", which Schiff argued "hindered the Committee's ability to fully understand and examine foreign efforts to undermine our political process and national security, develop appropriate legislative and policy remedies to counter future malign influence operations targeting campaigns and presidential transitions, and inform the American public, as appropriate".

"The evidence is so weighty that the Justice Department needs to consider this", Schiff said.

The letter details six alleged lies to Congress about Prince's meeting with Russian oligarch Kirill Dmitriev in the Seychelles.

Those statements, he wrote, included Prince telling the panel that he and Dmitriev had one chance encounter when both were staying at the same Seychelles hotel, whereas the Mueller report said an adviser to the ruler of the United Arab Emirates arranged for them to meet and that they saw each other twice. That's directly contradicted by the special counsel's report on the Russian Federation investigation, which says the meeting was set up ahead of time and that there were communications about it with Trump campaign adviser Steve Bannon. He had hoped to talk about "outlining a strategic roadmap" for U.S. -Russia relations.

Prince "cooperated completely" with Mueller's investigation, said Schwartz, a partner at the firm of Boies, Schiller, Flexner, LPP. He said that Bannon instructed him "not to follow up with Dmitriev", and he said that his impression was that Bannon didn't feel the issue was a priority. He told the special counsel that he had never discussed with Prince anything about Dmitriev or anyone associated with Putin. The report says investigators couldn't iron out the "conflicting accounts" by reviewing communications, in part because text messages between them were missing. Though mobile provider records show they exchanged "dozens" of messages, neither Prince nor Bannon have messages "prior to March 2017". "Bannon also stated that had Prince mentioned such a meeting, Bannon would have remembered it, and Bannon would have objected to such a meeting having taken place", the Mueller report says.

Schiff said that in congressional interviews, Bannon refused to answer nearly all of our questions and when we pressed to hold him in contempt the GOP members of our committee would not go forward.

"He said he was not answering questions because the White House asked him not to", Schiff said.

But the Mueller report poked several holes in that story.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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