Erik Prince, former head of mercenary business Blackwater, revealed in a bombshell interview Friday that he attended a meeting in Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. and a representative of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss “Iran policy” during the presidential campaign.
The interview marked the first time Prince has publicly acknowledged such a meeting. Prince said in congressional testimony in 2017 that he had no “official” or “unofficial” role in the campaign — other than a “yard sign” and writing “papers” — according to the transcript of his testimony before the House intelligence committee. Nor did he mention the meeting in his testimony, according to transcripts.
The New York Times reported last year that Prince organized the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump’s eldest son and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader. Nader revealed at the meeting that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia wanted to aid Trump in his bid for the presidency, according to the newspaper.
The meeting also reportedly included now-top White House aide Stephen Miller and Israeli social media expert Joel Zamel.
The August meeting is yet another secret huddle with a representative of foreign governments that may have provided illegal international aid to sway the American election. Just months earlier Donald Jr. and the president’s son-in-law and now senior White House aide Jared Kushner met at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin.
Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, acknowledged the meeting in an on-camera interview on Al Jazeera’s “Head to Head” aired Friday (above).
Asked by host Mehdi Hasan why he didn’t reveal the meeting in his congressional testimony, Prince insisted he had. When his actual response was read back to him, he suggested the transcript was “wrong,” drawing titters from the interview audience.
He later also insisted that “not all of the discussion that day was transcribed.”
A lawyer for Trump’s son confirmed to the Times after its story 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.”
The Trump administration later harshly cracked down on Iran, terminating American participation in the international nuclear pact with the nation over the strenuous objections of Europe and Iran — and pleasing the Saudis and gulf allies.
The existence of the Trump Tower meeting — and what may have been discussed or promised — raises questions about the president’s confounding lack of action against Saudi Arabia after the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which American intelligence officials determined was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Kushner met with the crown prince and other officials in Saudi Arabia earlier this week. Against all protocol, American embassy staffers told The Daily Beast that they were shut out of meetings and were not provided details of what had been discussed. The private huddles followed revelations that the president ordered Kushner to be given top-level security clearance over the objections of the FBI.
Hasan also challenged Prince’s description of Iraqis in his memoir as “barbarians.” Prince responded that he had no problem calling terrorists barbarians. But Hasan pointed out Prince’s team had not been sent to “liberate” terrorists but Iraqi civilians.
Blackwater employees opened fire in a crowded square in Baghdad in 2007, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounding 20 others. Three guards were convicted in 2014 of 14 manslaughter charges, and another of murder in an American court.