ERIK PRINCE, PERJURY, AND THE SECRET TRUMP TOWER MEETING Deconstructed March 14 2019, 7:03 a.m.
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ERIK PRINCE, THE FOUNDER and CEO of the world’s most notorious mercenary company, Blackwater, landed in hot water during a recent interview with Mehdi Hasan at the Oxford Union in the U.K. Prince repeatedly claimed to have disclosed an August 2016 meeting at Trump Tower to the House Intelligence Committee—a claim not backed up by the official transcripts of his testimony before Congress. On this week’s show, Mehdi Hasan speaks with Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” about Prince’s career and possible future plans. Mehdi also speaks with Rep. Joaquin Castro, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, about the possible fallout from Prince’s contradictory statements. The two also discuss Castro’s bill to cancel Trump’s emergency declaration, which will be taken up by the Senate this week.
Mehdi Hasan: Don’t you think that’s something important to disclose to the House Intelligence Committee while you’re under oath?
Erik Prince: I did.
MH: You didn’t. We just went through the testimony. There’s no mention of the Trump Tower meeting August 2016. Why not?
EP: I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong.
MH: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan. This week the founder and former boss of the private security firm Blackwater — the controversial super mercenary and hardcore Trump supporter Erik Prince was back in the news after a rather lively interview that I did with him for my Al Jazeera English TV show. He could now be in a lot of trouble as my guest today, Congressman Joaquin Castro explains.
Joaquin Castro: Erik Prince like at least a few other witnesses, I think, were not fully honest with the House Intelligence Committee and perhaps other committees in the Congress. After I saw your interview, I do have to wonder what the legal consequences could be for Erik Prince.
MH: My Intercept colleague Jeremy Scahill also joins me on Deconstructed to unpack Prince’s ties to the Trump administration and to explain to us why all of this matters so much.
Jeremy Scahill: Erik Prince is a guy who has operated forces that have committed war crimes. And I think it would be a step forward to get him in any way you can into the crosshairs of prosecutors.
MH: So on today’s show: Erik Prince, perjury, and the secret Trump Tower meeting.
Ayman Mohyeldin: In a stunning back and forth between former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince and Al Jazeera host Mehdi Hasan, Prince was confronted about why he failed to tell Congress that he was at that meeting.
Chris Hayes: Apparently, Prince didn’t tell the House Intel Committee about that meeting in Trump Tower during the campaign.
Joy Reid: If Erik Prince lied to the Intelligence Committee about whether or not he was at a Trump Tower meeting discussing Iran policy, could be in some legal jeopardy?
Mimi Rocah: Absolutely.
MH: It’s been a bit of a crazy few days for me. I did an interview with Erik Prince, founder and former CEO of the world’s most notorious mercenary company, Blackwater; brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos; and big Trump donor. He spent something like a quarter of a million dollars helping get Trump elected in 2016. It’s an interview which has since landed Prince in some hot water, both politically and legally. Because he’s not just friends with Trump and Steve Bannon and others in that circle, but also with the Emiratis and the Saudis. And Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel in the Russia investigation has interviewed Prince, and gone through his cellphones and laptop, while the House Intelligence Committee took testimony from the former Blackwater boss in November 2017 — testimony at which he admitted to a secret meeting in the Seychelles, organized by the United Arab Emirates, with a close pal of Vladimir Putin’s, just nine days before Trump’s inauguration.
What he didn’t tell them was that before that, he had another secret meeting, at Trump Tower, on August 3rd, 2016, in the middle of the election campaign, three months before election day, a secret meeting with Don Jr., the rather dim-witted eldest son of the president; Stephen Miller; top Trump adviser and ally of white nationalists; George Nader, an emissary for the Saudi and Emirati crown princes; and Joel Zamel, the Israeli head of the rather dodgy private intelligence company Psy-Group.
So, on the latest episode of my Al Jazeera English show, “Head to Head,” filmed in front of a live audience at the Oxford Union in the UK, aside from asking Prince about alleged war crimes in Iraq by Blackwater employees and about his latest controversial plan to try and privatize the war in Afghanistan, I also asked him about that Trump Tower meeting and why he didn’t mention it to Congress – have a listen:
EP: I did as part of the investigations. I certainly disclosed any meetings. The very, very few I had —
MH: Not in the Congressional testimony you gave to the House. We went through it. You didn’t mention anything about August 2016 meeting in Trump Tower. They specifically asked you what contacts you had and you didn’t answer that.
EP: I don’t believe I was asked that question.
MH: You were asked were there any former communications or contact with the campaign, you said apart from writing papers, putting up yard signs, no. That’s what you said. I’ve got the transcript of the conversation here.
Erik Prince: Sure, I might’ve been — I think I was at Trump headquarters, or their campaign headquarters —
MH: Trump Tower, August 3rd, 2016.
EP: We were there to talk about Iran policy.
MH: You were there to talk about Iran policy?
MH: Don’t you think that’s something important to disclose to the House Intelligence Committee while you’re under oath?
EP: I did.