Special counsel Robert Mueller may have evidence that Erik Prince, an ally of President Donald Trump, lied to Congress about setting up a secret back channel to the Kremlin for the administration, according to a report from the Washington Post.
Prince, the founder of the private military contracting firm Blackwater and also brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, met with emissaries from the United Arab Emirates and Russia in Seychelles before Trump's inauguration. He has admitted to the meeting, but in testimony to congressional investigators, Prince described it as a chance encounter.
The Post reports, however, that George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, is cooperating with Mueller and said the meeting was "set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries."
If the report is correct, Prince may have committed a crime by lying to Congress under oath. Nader has already testified before a grand jury, the Post found.
What does this tell us about the Russia investigation as a whole?
The revelations bolster previous reports that the Seychelles meeting was an attempt to set up secret communications between the Trump camp and Russia. Though this is not necessarily illegal, it's a breach of protocol during a presidential transition. And these interactions are clearly suspicious, following an election in which Russia repeatedly intervened to support Trump, even though he has frequently denied that Russia was involved at all.
We also know that Trump's son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner attempted to set up a secure line of communication with the Kremlin in December 2016. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was fired after it was revealed he had undisclosed communications with the Russians during the transition, and he later pleaded guilty to lying about these talks to the FBI. Another former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about Russia.
If everything that happened was above board, why was it all done in secret—and why all the lies?