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Erik Prince Recruited Ex-Spies To Infiltrate Liberal Groups

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

An explosive New York Times report revealed Saturday that notorious war profiteer Erik Prince recruited former American and British spies to work with the right-wing group Project Veritas to infiltrate at least one Democratic congressional campaign and organizations "considered hostile" to President Donald Trump's agenda.

"Secretary DeVos' brother was directly involved in a spying scheme in her home state against a teachers' union she's been hostile with for years. If this doesn't clear the bar for an immediate Congressional investigation, nothing does."
—Derek Martin, Allied Progress

Prince is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater. Through a spokesperson, he declined the Times' request for comment on the piece, which is based on interviews and documents obtained by the newspaper, including internal Project Veritas emails.

"Both Project Veritas and Mr. Prince have ties to President Trump's aides and family," the Times noted. "Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Mr. Trump's agenda."

The results of the Times' investigation were described by readers on social media as "chilling," "stunning," and "insane." Jacobin magazine assistant editor Alex Press declared, "My paranoid fantasies are all true!" In response to a tweet about the reporting, author and activist Naomi Klein simply wrote, "Read."

The consumer watchdog group Allied Progress responded with a statement Saturday night, calling on the House Oversight Committee to conduct an immediate investigation into what DeVos knew about Prince's activities.

"There's not a lot of dots to connect here," said Allied Progress director Derek Martin. "Secretary DeVos' brother was directly involved in a spying scheme in her home state against a teachers' union she's been hostile with for years. If this doesn't clear the bar for an immediate Congressional investigation, nothing does."

"We already know Secretary DeVos is no friend of public education, but if she gave the go-ahead to enlist former intelligence officers to steal documents from public education advocates that she disagrees with, it steps well beyond policy disagreement and into criminal territory," Martin added. "If Secretary DeVos was in any way involved, it will confirm that she stops at nothing to undermine public schools."

According to the Times:

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers' unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union's local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.
Using a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former CIA officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat. The campaign discovered the operative and fired her.
Both operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians, and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon's role in the teachers' union operation—detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union—has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince's role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group's activities.

The Times reported that it is unclear whether Seddon was involved in the Spanberger operation and the former British intelligence officer—who is married to American diplomat Alice Seddon—did not respond to the newspaper's request for comment.

James O'Keefe of Project Veritas told the Times that his group is a "proud independent news organization" and "no one tells Project Veritas who or what to investigate." Although he declined to discuss the details of the report, he also claimed that various sources are "providing confidential documents, insights into internal processes, and wearing hidden cameras to expose corruption and misconduct."

Past targets of Project Veritas have included the nonprofit healthcare organization Planned Parenthood, the political group Disrupt J20, and recently, David Wright, a 20-year veteran political correspondent at ABC News. Project Veritas has also recorded undercover video of a Times editor and approached the Washington Post with a false story about Roy Moore, a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama.

The Project Veritas operative inside AFT Michigan was Liberty University graduate Marisa Jorge, according to the Times. O'Keefe and Seddon used the code name "LibertyU" for Jorge when discussing the operation over email. Jorge, who also reportedly infiltrated the Spanberger campaign by posing as a volunteer, did not respond to the newspaper's request for comment. The federal lawsuit that AFT Michigan brought against Project Veritas is scheduled to go to trial later this year.

In a statement to the Times, AFT president Randi Weingarten said: "Let's be clear who the wrongdoer is here: Project Veritas used a fake intern to lie her way into our Michigan office, to steal documents and to spy—and they got caught. We're just trying to hold them accountable for this industrial espionage."

Weingarten added on Twitter Saturday, "They didn't succeed in their attempt to hurt our union but note what the right wing will do to try to eliminate workers' voice."

The Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill—who released the book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army in 2007—wrote on Twitter Saturday that with this piece, the Times "pushes the 2017 story from [The Intercept's Matthew Cole]⁩ forward about Erik Prince attempts to infiltrate liberal groups via Project Veritas."

Last year, Cole published an article for The Intercept titled "The Complete Mercenary: How Erik Prince Used the Rise of Trump to Make an Improbable Comeback."

Noting that Trump gave Project Veritas thousands of dollars through his foundation and met with O'Keefe shortly after announcing his run for president, Cole reported:

It is unclear if Trump's support of Project Veritas spurred Prince's interest in the group, but in late 2015 or early 2016, Prince arranged for O'Keefe and Project Veritas to receive training in intelligence and elicitation techniques from a retired military intelligence operative named Euripides Rubio Jr. According to a former Trump White House official who discussed the Veritas training with Rubio, the former special operative quit after several weeks of training, complaining that the Veritas group wasn't capable of learning. Rubio did not respond to requests for comment.
In the winter of 2017, Prince arranged for a former British MI6 officer to provide more surveillance and elicitation training for Veritas at his family's Wyoming ranch, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort. Prince was trying to turn O'Keefe and his group into domestic spies. For his part, O'Keefe posted photos on Instagram and Twitter from the Prince family ranch of himself holding a handgun with a silencer attached and wearing pseudo-military clothing. He described the ranch as a "classified location" where he was learning "spying and self-defense," in an effort to make Project Veritas "the next great intelligence agency."
"Erik was weaponizing a group that had close ties to the Trump White House," said the former White House official familiar with Prince's relationship with O'Keefe and Project Veritas.

Cole acknowledged the Times reporting on Twitter Saturday and highlighted a summary of it tweeted by The Atlantic's Adam Serwer:

Currently, the Times noted, "Prince is under investigation by the Justice Department over whether he lied to a congressional committee examining Russian interference in the 2016 election, and for possible violations of American export laws."

Former FBI assistant director and current NBC News national security contributor Frank Figliuzzi shared the Times report on Twitter Saturday and commented that "there are likely numerous criminal violations here."

Report: Erik Prince May Face Indictment For Lying To Congress In Russia Probe

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.

Mysterious Mueller Witness George Nader Indicted On Child Porn Charges

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman who became a major witness in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, was indicted in a Virginia federal court on child pornography charges, the Washington Post reported Monday.

Nader has previously faced related charges.

He served as an intermediary between Trump associates, Middle Eastern leaders, and Russia during the administration’s transition period in 2017.

Most notably, he was present at a mysterious meeting with Blackwater founder and Trump ally Erik Prince in Seychelles, which was also attended by an official tied to the Russian government. It’s not clear exactly what the nature of the meeting was, though many of Prince’s public remarks about the encounter appear to be false. Mueller scrutinized the meeting as a part of his investigation and interviewed Nader about it, but he was unable to satisfactorily answer all outstanding questions about the event.

 

House Committee Refers Erik Prince For Lying In Russia Probe

Trump ally and billionaire military contractor Erik Prince could be the latest member of Trump’s circle to be swallowed up by the Russia investigation.

That’s because House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said his committee plans to make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice to investigate Prince’s possible lies to Congress.

The lies revolve around a meeting in the secluded Seychelles islands that Prince had with a Russian businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The House Intelligence Committee interviewed Prince in November 2017 about the Seychelles meeting, which Prince portrayed as an unplanned meet up.

However, special counsel Robert Mueller’s report painted an entirely different picture of the meeting: that the two men discussed U.S.-Russia relations days before Trump was sworn in, and while the Russians were seeking to set up a back-channel line of communication to the Trump administration.

Per Mueller’s report:

Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive officer of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, was among the Russians who tried to make contact with the incoming administration. In early December, a business associate steered Dmitriev to Erik Prince, a supporter of the Trump Campaign and an associate of senior Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Dmitriev and Prince later met face-to-face in January 2017 in the Seychelles and discussed U.S.-Russia relations.

Schiff, who now has control of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation after Democrats won back the House in 2018, says that Mueller’s report shows Prince was not truthful in his interview with his committee, and thus the Department of Justice should investigate Prince for lying to Congress.

“In very material ways I think the evidence strongly suggests that he willingly mislead our committee, and the Justice Department needs to consider whether there’s a prosecutable case,” Schiff told the Washington Post‘s Robert Costa on Tuesday.

Schiff told Costa that the House Intelligence Committee will thus vote to refer Prince for criminal investigation. And since Democrats have a majority on the committee, the vote will likely pass.

Ultimately, yet another member of Trump’s inner circle could be in big trouble for lying under oath about shady contacts with Russians.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: Blackwater founder and 2016 Trump campaign adviser Erik Prince.