Over the weekend, the "New York Times" reported that in August 2016, Donald Trump Jr. met at Trump Tower with an Israeli social-media expert and a representative of two wealthy Arab princes about how they could help Trump's presidential campaign. The meeting was set up by Erik Prince.
Who is Erik Prince?
Erik Prince is a private security contractor and former Navy SEAL who is the former CEO of Blackwater, a company that provided security in the Middle East. He is the brother of Betsy DeVos, the Republican megadonor and charter-school advocate whom President Trump named Secretary of Education.
The weekend "Times" story is the first indication that the Trump campaign may have collaborated with nations other than Russia to help get Trump elected. It is illegal to accept money or assistance from foreign governments or citizens in U.S. elections.
The story is also problematic for Prince because he testified before Congress that his involvement with the Trump campaign was limited to donating money, attending fundraisers and writing foreign-policy papers for Trump’s advisers. If he lied, he could be charged with perjury.
Prince was already under scrutiny after the "Washington Post" reported in April 2017 that in January of that year, Prince had met with a representative of a Russian-backed investment fund in the Seychelles. The man who set up that meeting, George Nader, is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Prince had told Congress he flew to the Seychelles to meet with Emirati officials and was surprised the Russian official was there. But the "Post" reported that Mueller has evidence that Prince had pre-planned the meeting with the Russian official.
Prince is already controversial because of his leadership of Blackwater, which had a multimillion-dollar, no-bid contract to provide security to the American embassy and diplomats in Iraq starting in 2003. In 2007, the Iraqi government revoked Blackwater's license because of a shooting that left 14 Iraqi civilians dead. The company agreed to pay fines in the tens of millions.
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Prince left Blackwater when it was sold to an investment group in 2010. He heads a private-equity firm called Frontier Resource Group, which advises Chinese investors on oil and gas in Africa.