In an exclusive report by ABC that we believe is nothing short of a trial balloon warning of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's next major indictment (or, alternatively, the turning of another valuable witness), the network reported that the special counsel has obtained evidence that Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVoes, lied to Congressional investigators about the circumstances surrounding his meeting with Russian Sovereign Wealth Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev.
According to leaks that emerged last year, Prince told the House Intelligence Committee that his meeting with Dmitriev during a trip to the Seychelles just days before President Trump's inauguration was a chance encounter, and that he met with Dmitriev only at the behest of "one of the brothers" of United Arab Emirates leader Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed al-Nayhan.
But according to George Nader, a Lebanese business man with a shadowy record that includes a 1991 conviction on child pornography charges in the US - for which he served only six months in a halfway house thanks to his role in helping to free American hostages in Beirut. More recently, Nader reportedly played a role in facilitating Trump's trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last year.
Nader has become a key witness and cooperator in the Mueller probe. And while the full breadth and scope of what he's told Mueller remains unclear, the information he provided about Prince appears to be damning.
Specifically, Nader reportedly told Mueller that he met with Prince in New York City a week before the Seychelles meeting to brief him on the encounter, then provided Prince with a dossier of information about Dmitriev.
Also, Nader told Mueller that he attended the meeting with Prince and Dmitriev. But during his interview with Congressional investigators, Prince only said that Dmitriev's wife was in attendance.
Nader said the goal of the meeting would've been to establish a backchannel between the Russian government and the Trump administration.
Sources tell ABC News Nader met with Prince at New York's Pierre Hotel a week before the Jan. 11, 2017 meeting in the Seychelles, and later sent Prince biographical information about Dmitriev, which, according to those sources, noted that Dmitriev had been appointed by Putin to oversee the state-run sovereign wealth fund.
Nader says he then facilitated and personally attended the meetings, including one between Prince and Dmitriev, at a resort owned by MBZ off the coast of East Africa, the sources told ABC News. One of the primary goals of the meeting, Nader told investigators, was to discuss foreign policy and to establish a line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration, sources told ABC News.
Nader — who Prince said in a 2010 lawsuit deposition had once represented his military contractor business in Iraq — was not mentioned in Prince's congressional testimony despite Prince being asked by lawmakers who was present. Prince said only that Dmitriev's wife was there but she left after a few minutes while they discussed terrorism and oil prices.
A spokesperson for Prince told ABC News on Thursday that "Erik has said all there is to say to the committee and has nothing further to add." Prince has said that the Seychelles meeting was leaked to the news media last year in an illegal “unmasking” of his identity in U.S. signals intelligence intercepts.
While this might look like an ironclad case of perjury on the surface, we imagine the truth is much murkier. For one, even if Prince did attend the meeting with the goal of establishing a channel between Trump and Russia, establishing such an informal line of communication wouldn't have been illegal because it happened during the transition - when incoming administrations are expected to establish these types of relationships. If it had happened during the campaign, it would've become fodder for Mueller's collusion investigation. But it didn't.
Furthermore, this isn't the first time we've learned about investigators' interest in Prince's meeting - and, more importantly, whether the characterization he provided to Congress was accurate. There have been several leaks.
The other question is, since attending such a meeting wouldn't have been illegal, why would Prince have lied about it and risked a perjury charge to hide behavior that wasn't even illegal.
The answer, we imagine, will be found somewhere in Nader's past. His motivations for cooperating with Mueller remain mysterious, and his past criminal convictions raise questions about his credibility.
And if Mueller truly did have proof that Prince blatantly broke the law, we imagine he would've arrested him by now.
So, we imagine this will result in one of three things: Prince will soon be indicted, after being approached by Mueller, Prince will turn state's witness or Nader - who was formerly employed by Prince at Prince-run military contractor Blackwater - is the one who is doing the misleading.
For what it's worth, ABC says Prince has yet to appear before the grand jury Mueller set up to secure his convictions - so that would seem to eliminate option one.
Whatever's missing here, we imagine we'll learn more during the coming days and weeks.