Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff, and Karen DeYoung at the Washington Post report:
The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.Oh, and he's Betsy DeVos' brother, incidentally. Ahem.
The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump's inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would likely require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.
Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.
Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump's campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said: "We are not aware of any meetings and Erik Prince had no role in the transition." No official role. But note that Spicer did not immediately say the meeting did not take place.
It's worth remembering that Mike Pence assumed leadership of Trump's transition in November. Also that a number of people, myself among them, believe DeVos was Pence's pick for Education Secretary.
It is quickly getting more difficult for Pence to keep playing innocent about the Trump administration's ties to Russia. At least while retaining any credibility, because the only other option is that he hadn't the faintest fucking clue what was happening during a transition he was running.