A critical witness in the Russia probe may have poked a huge hole in the Trump team’s story about a mysterious Seychelles meeting

  • George Nader, a little-known but critical witness in the Russia investigation, has contradicted key portions of testimony from Erik Prince, an associate of President Donald Trump’s, before the House Intelligence Committee last year, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Prince told lawmakers that his meeting in Seychelles in January of last year with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a sanctioned Russian investment fund, happened by chance, and that he was introduced to him by prospective business customers in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Nader, meanwhile, has reportedly told prosecutors that the Seychelles meeting was set up in advance to open a Trump-Russia back channel and that the Emiratis were not the ones who introduced Prince and Dmitriev.

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George Nader, a top adviser to Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who’s a critical witness in the Russia investigation, contradicted key points in testimony from Erik Prince, an associate of President Donald Trump’s, before the House Intelligence Committee, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Nader and Prince met in Seychelles in January of last year with Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of a sanctioned Russian investment fund who’s a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting has drawn scrutiny from the special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates whether it took place as part of an effort to open a secret back-channel line of communication between the incoming Trump administration and Russia.

Prince, who resides in the United Arab Emirates, told the House Intelligence Committee last year that his meeting with Dmitriev had occurred by chance as he was meeting potential Emirati business contacts in Seychelles and that the Emiratis introduced him to Dmitriev.

Prince told lawmakers that during the meeting, the Emiratis “mentioned a guy who I should also meet who was also in town,” who turned out to be Dmitriev.

He continued: “At the end, one of the entourage say: ‘Hey, by the way, there’s this Russian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past. He’s here also to see someone from the Emirati delegation, and you should meet him – he’d be an interesting guy for you to know, since you’re doing a lot in the oil and gas and mineral space.'”

In the meeting, Dmitriev and Prince discussed a range of topics, and Dmitriev stressed that he wished Russia and the US could resume normal trade relations, Prince said, adding that they spoke for no more than 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, Nader told prosecutors earlier this year that the Emirati delegation did not introduce Prince and Dmitriev, The Journal reported.

Emirati officials were also under the impression that Prince was attending the meeting as a surrogate for Trump’s team while Dmitriev was representing Putin’s interests.

Nader testified before a grand jury about the meeting earlier this year.According to The Washington Post, a witness told Mueller that the Seychelles meeting was set up in advance to discuss US-Russia relations.

But Prince denied that in his testimony last year, saying he attended the meeting strictly for business purposes.

The Post reported last year that Prince approached the crown prince, with whom he has a long business relationship, following a December 2016 meeting the crown prince had with Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump; Steve Bannon, the incoming White House chief strategist; and Michael Flynn, the incoming national security adviser.

The report said Prince told the crown prince he was authorized to act as an unofficial surrogate for Trump, then asked whether the crown prince could set up a meeting with Dmitriev.

Prince told the House Intelligence Committee last year that he knew Dmitriev was a Russian fund manager but did not know it was a sanctioned fund that was controlled by the Russian government.

At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland after the Seychelles meeting, Dmitriev met with Anthony Scaramucci, who later became the White House communications director.

Russian state media quoted Scaramucci as saying after his meeting with Dmitriev that the Obama administration’s new sanctions on Russia designed to penalize it for interfering in the 2016 US election were ineffective and detrimental to the US-Russia relationship.

One month before Prince met with Dmitriev, Kushner is said to have proposed a secret back-channel line of communication between the Trump team and Moscow using Russian facilities.