Fact-check: Erik Prince's public claims vs. the Mueller report

Report contradicts prior assertions about Russia

By Holmes Lybrand
Getty Images

Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm Blackwater

(CNN) - Erik Prince, the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater, makes a number of appearances in special counsel Robert Mueller's report. Noted for his ties to the United Arab Emirates, Prince was a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump during the campaign and spent time around senior officials with the Trump transition team, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Prince is the brother of Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Over the past two years, Prince has come under scrutiny for connections he may have been trying to make between the incoming Trump administration and Russian officials. Of particular interest is a meeting Prince had in January 2017 with a high-ranking Russian official.

Prince has made several public statements regarding these activities and testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017. (The transcript was later released to the public.)

In all of Prince's comments, he has tried to downplay the importance of the meeting, characterizing it as a chance encounter.

However, the Mueller report undercuts some of Prince's assertions, and shows the degree to which the meeting was planned and was focused (at least in part) on making Russian connections with the incoming administration.

Here's a look at some of Prince's claims before his interview with Mueller compared to those he made to Mueller's team.

Prince: Meeting with Putin-connected Russian was an impromptu casual encounter

Mueller report: The meeting was established prior to Prince's trip.

In January of 2017, Prince met with Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of Russia's sovereign wealth fund, in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean. During an interview with CNN in August 2017, Prince claimed that he was "there on business" with Emirati officials and that he simply "met a guy," referring to Dmitriev. In this telling, the meeting was so insignificant, Prince said he couldn't "even remember his name."

But according to the Mueller report, before going to the Seychelles, Prince met with an emissary of the UAE named George Nader several times in New York and "discussed Dmitriev," with Nader who "inform(ed) Prince that the Russians were looking to build a link with the incoming Trump administration."

Nader sent Prince the Wikipedia entry on Dmitriev and told Dmitriev that he had met "with some key people within ... the inner circle" in reference to Prince, the report says.

This appears to directly contradict how Prince characterized the meeting to CNN, when he said he'd just "met a guy."

There is also a disparity in the way Prince described the meeting, and whether he was acting on behalf of himself or as a bridge to the Trump team.

Prince: I was not representing Trump in any way in meeting with Dmitriev.

Mueller report: Prince told Dmitriev he would relay information to Trump's campaign chief executive Steve Bannon.

In his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Prince was asked if "the point of that meeting (was) for you to represent the Trump campaign or Mr. Trump in any way?" He replied "No."

This contradicts how both Nader and Dmitriev viewed the meeting with Prince. According to the report, Nader told Prince to meet with Dmitriev "in light of (Prince's) relationship with the (Trump) Transition Team" in order to "discuss issues of mutual concern."

The report also states that, "Prince acknowledged that it was fair for Nader to think that Prince would pass information on to the Transition Team."

Prince also told Dmitriev that he would "inform Bannon about his meeting with Dmitriev," and would follow-up if there was interest from the Trump team. Bannon told the special counsel that "Prince did not tell him in advance about his meeting with Dmitriev."

Clearly, the meeting was set up by Nader for Dmitriev to meet someone who had connections to the incoming Trump administration, and according to the report Prince knew this.

Prince also appears to have mischaracterized key details of his meeting with Dmitriev, including failing to mention that there were two meetings

Prince: "So I met him in the bar and had a drink."

Mueller report: They met twice, first in Nader's villa and again at a restaurant.

In his testimony to the House committee, Price said that he met Dmitriev at "at the bar and had a drink." The meeting, Prince said during an interview with Al Jazeera, "lasted one beer, which doesn't take me very long."

According to the Mueller report, what Prince failed to mention was that he first met Dmitriev in Nader's villa (with Nader in attendance). That meeting lasted 30 to 45 minutes. The two met briefly for a second time at a restaurant nearby.

All of these contradictions raise the possibility that Prince could face legal jeopardy for perjury. Democrats have publicly suggested for more than a year that Prince lied to Congress, though Prince has always maintained that his testimony was truthful.

A spokesperson for Prince, Marc Cohen, declined to comment on whether Prince lied during his House testimony when reached via email by CNN Thursday, saying, "Erik has said all there is to say on this."

CNN's Zachary Cohen and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.

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