In a blockbuster interview Friday night, Erik Prince, the former CEO of mercenary contractor and private military consultancy Blackwater admitted for the first time that he was present at meetings during the 2016 campaign that were held at Trump Tower. Those meetings included presidential son and senior White House adviser Donald Trump Jr., along with representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE.) The topic of the meeting, according to reports in HuffPost, were discussions of “Iran policy.”
The interview revelation could prove to be tremendously important, especially for Prince, because it’s the first time he has publicly admitted he was present at such a meeting. Not only that, in 2017 Prince testified under oath before a congressional committee that he had no “official” or “unofficial” role in the 2016 campaign to elect then-candidate Donald Trump. According to a transcript of his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Prince claimed that his involvement didn’t go beyond putting up a “yard sign” or writing papers.
Although The New York Times reported last year that Prince organized the meeting with Trump Jr. and Lebanese businessman George Nader, who was there representing the interests of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, this is the first time Prince has publicly confirmed his presence there. Also alleged to have been included at the meeting are White House aide Stephen Miller and Israeli social media guru Joel Zamel. Nader later revealed that he was there to inform the Trump campaign that the Saudi kingdom and the UAE was interested in providing Trump support in his efforts to win the presidency.
Prince, who is also the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, admitted to his involvement in the meeting on-camera in a Friday night interview on Al-Jazeera. When he was asked by the host of the Al-Jazeera show Head to Head why he didn’t tell congress about the meeting during his testimony, Prince at first claimed that he had. When host Mehdi Hasan then read him the transcript of his testimony, Prince claimed that the transcript must be wrong, eliciting laughter from the studio audience.
Prince later said that “not all of the discussion that day was transcribed.”
After The New York Times story appeared, a lawyer for Trump Jr. confirmed that “prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel.”
After taking office, the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the groundbreaking international nuclear agreement the Obama administration had hammered out with Iran, despite European allies and other nations’ strong objections and to the delight of Saudi Arabia and other gulf states.
Earlier this week, White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner raised a stir in the media over a meeting with the Saudi crown prince and other officials, shutting out U.S. embassy staffers from the meeting against all protocol and precedent.