Why did Erik Prince hold the meeting? How much influence does he have with the Trump administration?
In January, Erik Prince, a major Trump donor with ties to his administration flew to a remote island and conferred with a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Founder of former government security contractor Blackwater
- Major donor to Trump’s presidential campaign
- Brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
- Has ties to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan:
- Crown prince of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, a Persian Gulf nation strongly opposed to Iran
Unnamed Russian businessman:
- Close to Putin
Date: Mid-January 2016, before Trump’s inauguration
Place: Seychelles, a remote island nation in the Indian Ocean
Topic: Zayed arranged a meeting between Prince and the Putin confidant to establish a possible back channel of communications between Moscow and the incoming Trump administration, a diplomatic source tells CNN.
Both the White House and a Prince spokesman said Prince had “no role” on the transition team.
The Washington Post, which first reported the meeting, reported that the UAE wanted to weaken the alliance between Russia and Iran, a move that would likely “require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.” NBC News quoted an intelligence source saying the Seychelles meeting focused on U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Why did Prince hold the meeting? How much influence does he have with the Trump administration?
During the transition, Prince met with members of Trump’s incoming national-security team, two sources tell CNN contributor Carl Bernstein. Prince also boasted during the transition about the influence he had with the administration, the sources said.
A Prince spokesman said in a statement that the meeting “had nothing to do with President Trump” but did not explain the purpose of the meeting.
If Trump officials knew of or sanctioned Prince’s meeting, that raises new questions about Trump’s agenda for Russia and about any ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin. A push to separate Russia from its Middle East ally might require lifting or easing sanctions against Russia, which would face strong opposition from Europe and Congress, where there is strong bipartisan support for sanctions.
Credit – CNN
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