Mueller Probes Growing Evidence of Back-Channel Between Trump, Russia


The Washington Post first reported that Mueller has gathered evidence that the secret meeting in Seychelles was an attempt to establish a back channel between Russian Federation and the incoming Trump administration.

Erik Prince, who is again under scrutiny over a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles with a Kremlin-tied Russian businessman and others, will hold a fundraiser for Russophile congressman Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), CNN reported Thursday.

A witness, who has been cooperating with Mueller, told investigators the meeting was set up before the inauguration so someone from Trump's transition team could meet with a Moscow emissary, WaPo's report notes, which relies exclusively on unnamed sources.

The Post reports that Businessman George Nader told the special counsel that he had helped organize and attended the Seychelles meeting, and testified before a grand jury saying so.

Although Prince had no official role in the Trump transition team, The Intercept-citing a former senior US official that advised the transition-reported in January 2017 that he had weighed in on Defense and State Department candidates and provided advice on intelligence and defense. But on top of the reportedly illicit nature of the meeting, Prince's role as a representative for the Trump administration is disconcerting, given his reputation as a war profiteer and anti-Muslim Crusader. "It's not the special counsel's responsibility to tell the country what happened". Prince is the founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater (famous for massacring unarmed civilians in Baghdad), a supporter of a privatized and for-profit military, and brother of Trump's Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

While Mueller is probing the circumstances of the Seychelles meeting, he is also more broadly examining apparent efforts by the Trump transition team to create a back channel for secret talks between the new administration and the Kremlin.

"I also think that Bob Mueller on his own can expand his own authority and investigate this", Napolitano said.

The Seychelles meeting would not be the only reported effort by Trump associates to set up a secret line of communication with Russian Federation. 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 couldn't be reached for comment, and his lawyer declined to comment.

H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials, including from the UAE, that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. However, according to officials familiar with the meeting, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Russian official.

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