According to an anonymously sourced Washington Post story that is written in a way that hints we’re supposed to infer scandal, Blackwater founder Erik Prince met with an unnamed Russian whom we are assured is a close Putin associate.
The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.
The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would likely require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.
Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.
Prince was an avid supporter of Trump who gave $250,000 last year to support the GOP nominee’s campaign, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.
U.S. officials said the FBI has been scrutinizing the Seychelles meeting as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged contacts between associates of Putin and Trump. The FBI declined to comment.
Prince says no such meeting took place.
Let’s suppose it is all true. We have a private citizen who is a major Trump donor and brother to a Trump cabinet official traveling on his own dime to the Seychelles to try to open a back-channel communication with the Russians. By the way, the way some of these people and a lot of RedState commenters behave you’d swear that Russia was not important and we should declare war upon it tomorrow just because. As a former Obama official said, this is not unusual:
Steven Simon, a National Security Council senior director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Obama White House, said: “The idea of using business cutouts, or individuals perceived to be close political leaders, as a tool of diplomacy is as old as the hills. These unofficial channels are desirable precisely because they are deniable; ideas can be tested without the risk of failure.”
Besides, if as many people in the Trump administration were as close to Russia as is alleged, why in the hell would they need a back-channel since Putin is delivering dictation to Trump as it is?
The biggest objection seems to be that the alleged objective of the meeting was trying to find a way to separate Russia from Iran:
“Separating Russia from Iran was a common theme,” said a former intelligence official in the Obama administration who met with Trump transition officials. “It didn’t seem very well thought out. It seemed a little premature. They clearly had a very specific policy position, which I found odd given that they hadn’t even taken the reins and explored with experts in the U.S. government the pros and cons of that approach.”
Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said he also had discussions with people close to the Trump administration about the prospects of drawing Russia away from Iran. “When I would hear this, I would think, ‘Yeah that’s great for you guys, but why would Putin ever do that?’ ” McFaul said. “There is no interest in Russia ever doing that. They have a long relationship with Iran. They’re allied with Iran in fighting in Syria. They sell weapons to Iran. Iran is an important strategic partner for Russia in the Middle East.”
This is a repetitive theme you find, members of the most criminal and inept administration in the history of the Republic blaming the Trump administration for arriving with the opinion that what Obama did failed and they want to do something else.
Contrary to what the Post claims, this story doesn’t prove any relationship between Prince and anyone in Russia. It is based on the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi acting as a middleman to set up a meeting between Prince and Russia for something that is very good for Abu Dhabi: minimizing Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf. The worst one can say, it seems to me, is that the administration was searching for ways to dig itself out of the hole the Obama administration had drilled to the center of the earth in the Middle East and any idea was deemed worth exploring.