A report that Erik Prince attended an August 20016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. casts doubt on the Blackwater founder’s prior congressional testimony about his involvement with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The New York Times reported Saturday that Prince attended the meeting at Trump Tower along with an Israeli social media specialist and a representative of two Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. At the meeting, the Gulf states’ representative, George Nader, reportedly offered help with the presidential campaign while the social media specialist pitched Trump Jr. on his services.But in November, Prince testified to the House Intelligence Committee that his involvement in Trump’s campaign was limited to donating money, attending fundraisers and authoring papers on foreign policy for Trump’s advisers. Prince did not mention any August 2016 meeting and told the committee he had no other formal contact with the campaign.
The discrepancy raises questions about whether Prince was truthful in his testimony before the committee and also whether Prince played a role in arranging high-level meetings between the Trump campaign and foreign interests.
In response to Saturday’s report, Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University, tweeted that Prince’s testimony now “looks a lot like perjury.”
“It appears that he lied to Congress, but there’s always a difference between there appears that a crime has been committed and being able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
It’s unlikely Prince would face legal consequences for any false statements, according Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who worked for special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of national security-related leaks during the George W. Bush administration.
“Lying to Congress is tough to prove. Just ask Roger Clemens,” he said, referring to the former Major League Baseball pitcher who was charged with perjury — but ultimately acquitted — after evidence emerged contradicting claims he made to Congress that he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.
Prince did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating the Trump Tower meeting. It is not the only intrigue-shrouded meeting involving Prince that has come under Mueller’s scrutiny.
Last April, the Washington Post reported on a January 2017 meeting between Erik Prince and a representative of a Russian state-backed investment fund in the Seychelles. Nader helped arrange that meeting. Prince testified to Congress he traveled to the Seychelles to meet with Emirati officials and that the meeting with the Russian official, Kirill Dmitriev, was incidental and not pre-planned.
In March, both the Washington Post and the Times reported that Mueller has also obtained evidence that Prince’s meeting with Dmitriev was in fact pre-planned, apparently contradicting Prince’s congressional testimony on that matter as well.