A meeting in the Seychelles weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration between a Russian executive and a top Republican donor close to the Trump transition team has drawn the scrutiny of special counsel Robert Mueller, who has heard testimony that appears to conflict with an account of the same meeting given earlier to House investigators, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mueller’s investigators have heard testimony from a witness that the donor, Erik Prince, wasn’t introduced to the Russian by intermediaries from the United Arab Emirates, as he had told the House panel, the people said. Prince, founder of the Blackwater security firm, told the House Intelligence Committee in November that he had traveled to the Seychelles to meet with Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, and his associates to discuss “potential business in the future,” according to a public transcript released by the panel, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
During his stay in January 2017, Prince said he also met with the Russian executive, Kirill Dmitriev. Prince told lawmakers that the meeting with Dmitriev was a short, chance encounter at the hotel bar and was arranged by a member of Zayed’s delegation. Dmitriev is the chief executive of an investment fund created by the Russian government and is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
However, testimony earlier this year from George Nader, an adviser close to UAE’s crown prince who is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation, has contradicted Prince’s account, according to the people familiar with the matter. Nader told Mueller’s investigators that he attended Prince’s meeting with the Emirati delegation and that the Emiratis didn’t make the introduction between Prince and Dmitriev, the people said. Mueller appears to be investigating whether the meeting was an effort to create a back channel between Russia and the incoming Trump administration, according to one of the people familiar with the matter.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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