United States special counsel probes Seychelles meeting with Russian

Why an Emirates Adviser's Cooperation With Mueller May Be Terrible for Trump

U.S., European and Arab officials told The Washington Post last April that the meeting was part of an effort to set up back-channel communications between the Kremlin and then President-elect Donald Trump.

Prince, in past statements to Congress, has described the meeting as a "chance encounter" that did not involved US-Russia relations.

Prince said his meeting with Dmitriev came up at the last minute and at the suggestion of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who Prince said invited him to the Seychelles - although he told congressional investigators he could not remember when or who from Zayed's staff extended the invitation.

George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman, helped organize the meeting and shared that information during testimony before a grand jury gathering evidence as part of Mueller's probe of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The Post said Nader has been cooperating with Mueller and has met numerous times with investigators since he was stopped and questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after he arrived at Washington's Dulles International Airport in January.

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Based on information it has gathered, Mueller's office claimed that the meeting between Prince and Dmitriev had in fact been premeditated, and was meant to coordinate an eventual meeting between a representative of Trump's transition team and a Russian Federation emissary. Multiple news outlets confirmed that the donor, Erik Prince, met with a representative of Vladimir Putin in Seychelles, hoping to set up an intelligence agency-free back-channel between the two governments. Nader was also in the Seychelles when Prince met with a Russian banker, the sources said. The UAE officials suggested he visit the hotel bar and meet Dmitriev, Prince told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in 2017. He's also the younger brother of Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Mueller's investigators continue to ask witnesses - including former national security adviser Mike Flynn - about how administration officials connected with foreign officials during the campaign, transition and the administration.

Such foreign donations to the campaign, if uncovered, would be illegal.

Nader, according to current and former officials, was known to Trump transition and administration officials as someone with political connections in the Middle East who could help navigate the tricky diplomacy of the region. According to The Post, Emirati officials were indeed under the impression that Prince was representing Trump at the meeting. Legal experts say that Trump might be playing with fire by giving off the appearance that he is inquisitive about Mueller's witnesses, as the special counsel could use that as supplementary evidence of obstruction.

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