Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince blasted the US Intelligence community for a “political abuse of the intelligence infrastructure” after leaking information on his whereabouts to the Washington Post. The former Navy SEAL and brother of Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, made the comments during his November 30 testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee, according to transcripts released Wednesday.
Committee members asked Prince about a business trip to the Indian Ocean country of Seychelles for a summit with United Arab Emirates business associates, with Senator Tom Rooney (R-FL) claiming “there’s an inference that you are acting on behalf of the Russian — or the Trump campaign and meeting with Russian people.”
During the January 11, 2017 Sychelles meeting, Prince said he was introduced to Russian fund manager, Kirill Dmitriev, who he spoke with for approximately 30 minutes at the bar. Prince made it clear that he has had very little to do with the Trump campaign aside from donating money, attending fundraisers, and writing “some papers on different foreign policy positions” which he gave to Steve Bannon.
Prince scoffed at the notion he was acting on behalf of the Trump campaign during his January meeting, and then lambasted the US Intelligence community for leaking the details of his meeting to the Washington Post in a story which ran in April, accusing Prince of establishing a backdoor channel to Moscow on behalf of then-candidate Trump.
“What really bothers me and what I would hope the Intelligence Committee is doing is questioning why Americans that were caught up in waves of signals intelligence, why on Earth would The Washington Post be running an article on any meeting that a private citizen, me, was having in a foreign country? That’s illegal. That is a political abuse of the intelligence infrastructure.
And that is really dangerous, especially as this committee and the Congress thinks about reauthorizing very wide-ranging intelligence authorities to dig into private Americans’ electronic communications of any sort. That’s what I have an issue with.
Prince says he was told that an Obama National Security Council staffer provided the intelligence to the Washington Post, after the administration opened a counter-intelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in July 2016 based in part on a salacious dossier funded by Hillary Clinton and the DNC.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) pressed Prince on his relationship to the Trump campaign, asking “Did you discuss having any channel of communication between the United States and Russia?” To which Prince replied “No,” adding:
Congressman, Erik Prince, a private citizen, traveled to the Seychelles to meet with some Emirati people that he’d known for a few years. And while there, they said, ‘Oh, there is this Russian guy that’s also here to see us. Might be useful for you to meet him.’ And like I said, I met him for a maximum of 30 minutes, probably much less than that because it doesn’t take me that long to drink a beer in a bar.”
Prince suggested that the Obama administration “unmasked” his name from intelligence reports which were then leaked to the Post, and that the article damaged his relationship with the UAE.
“What are you doing to prevent the illicit use of the intelligence apparatus by a political party, particular the previous one that did that to me,” Prince asked Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), adding “I’m really bothered by that – and any American should be, particularly as Congress votes to reauthorize significant ability for the intelligence community to dig into our lives, whether you’re a private citizen or not, from all the electronics that you do.”