Reprinted with permission from Alternet
While Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel’s Office has long since closed up shop, a key mysterious figure in the Russia investigation may still face charges related to the probe.
Erik Prince, an ally of President Donald Trump and the founder of the military contracting company formerly called Blackwater, is under investigation by the Justice Department for potentially lying to congressional investigators who interviewed him as part of the House of Representative’s Russia investigation, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. That investigation is reportedly in its “late stages.”
In addition to investigating potential lies to Congress, the Justice Department is also probing whether Prince violated U.S. export laws, the report said.
Prince came under scrutiny for a meeting he held with an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin in January of 2017, just weeks before Trump was inaugurated. In Mueller’s report on the conclusions of the special counsel’s investigation, some details about the meeting in Seychelles remained mysterious.
But the report did indicate that Prince had lied to Congress in his account on key aspects of the meeting. Some criticized Mueller for not pursuing criminal charges for these apparent lies, given that he hadn’t hesitated to indict other Trump allies for their criminal deceptions. After the report was released, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee that interviewed Prince, sent the Justice Department a letter recommending that his testimony be reviewed for potential criminal statements. Schiff flagged six claims Prince made in testimony that contradicted the report in “material respects.” For example, Prince had claimed that the Seychelles meeting was a “chance encounter,” while Mueller found evidence that it was planned well in advance.
The Justice Department only recently replied to Schiff’s letter, informing the chair on Feb. 4 that it was referring his request to the proper agency.
But according to the Journal, the “investigation gathered steam in recent months with the cooperation of several witnesses.”
An attorney for Prince told the Journal: “There is nothing new here.” The attorney claimed his client “cooperated completely” with Mueller.