The Washington Post, advancing the NYT's reporting, says Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is gathering evidence that Erik Prince's meeting in the Seychelles was, in fact, "an effort to establish a back-channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin."
A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators 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 two countries ...
George Nader, a Lebanese-American business who helped organize and attended the Seychelles meeting, has testified on the matter before a grand jury gathering evidence about discussions between the Trump transition team and emissaries of the Kremlin ...
Nader began cooperating with Mueller after he flew into Dulles Airport in mid-January and was stopped, served with a subpoena and questioned by the FBI ... He has met numerous times with investigators.
Prince continues to insist his meeting in the Seychelles was as a private businessman and not as representative of the Trump transition and that his interaction with a Russian fund manager was an afterthought, brief, and inconsequential.
However, according to the NYT, Nader has told investigators a very different story.
Mr. Nader represented the crown prince in the three-way conversation in the Seychelles, at a hotel overlooking in the Indian Ocean, in the days before Mr. Trump took office. At the meeting, Emirati officials believed Mr. Prince was speaking for the Trump transition team, and a Russian fund manager, Kirill Dmitriev, represented Mr. Putin ...
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. Such a concession by Moscow would likely require the easing of U.S. sanctions on Russia, which were imposed for its intervention in Ukraine in 2014, those officials said.
Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition. However, according to persons familiar with the Seychelles meeting, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his discussion with the Russian official.
The WaPo also explains how what Nader knows may unlock a trove of information related to the transition team and the White House's interactions with foreign officials. Nader has been connected to Erik Prince for years and has met several times with members of the Trump administration.
Investigators now suspect the Seychelles meeting may have been one of the first efforts to establish such a line of communications between the two governments, these people said. Nader’s account is considered key evidence — but not the only evidence — about what transpired in the Seychelles, according to people familiar with the matter.
Nader has long served as an adviser to the UAE leadership, and in that role he met more than once with Trump officials, including Stephen K. Bannon and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to people familiar with the matter. After the Seychelles meeting, Nader visited the White House several times, and met at least once there with Bannon and Kushner, these people said.
Nader — and the Seychelles meeting — are also of interest to Mueller’s team as it examines whether any foreign money or assistance fueled the Trump campaign, and how Trump officials during the transition and early days of the administration communicated with foreign officials, particularly Russians.
Related: Mueller's New Cooperating Witness