Don't look now, but the Erik Prince/George Nader angle of the Trump collusion story just got a whole lot bigger with this astonishing piece from Erin Banco at NJ.com.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team is examining a series of previously unreported meetings that took place in 2017 in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, as part of its broader investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to two sources briefed on the investigation.
The sources said several of those meetings took place around the same time as another meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince, founder of the security company Blackwater, Kirill Dmitriev, the director of one of Russia's sovereign wealth funds, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the United Arab Emirates (also known as "MBZ"). Details of that earlier meetingwere first reported by the Washington Post last year.
The sources requested to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The inquiry into the meetings in the Seychelles suggests there is growing interest on the Mueller team in whether foreign financing, specifically from Gulf states, has influenced President Trump and his administration.
The New York Times reported in March that Mueller's team questioned George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who helped broker the Seychelles meeting, about whether the Emiratis attempted to buy political influence in the White House.
That's what we knew: that Nadler and the Emiratis were the brokers and Erik Prince was Trump's point man, and that as a result Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, got the position of Trump's Secretary of Education. Here's what we didn't know:
Documents obtained by this reporter, and interviews with those familiar with the probe, suggest Mueller is also looking at other foreign influencers, including individuals from Russia and from Saudi Arabia.
The meetings in the Seychelles are a key component of Mueller's investigation, sources familiar with the investigation said. The meetings connect powerful players from Russia, the U.S., the UAE and Saudi Arabia across the political, financial and defense worlds. The details of what was discussed in the meetings in January and in the following months, however, are scarce.
Flight records and financial documents obtained by this reporter over twelve months, as well as interviews with parliamentary and aviation officials in the Seychelles, paint a scene out of a Hollywood thriller.
Wealthy and politically-connected individuals from across the globe -- from Russia, France, Saudi Arabia and South Africa -- land in the Seychelles for meetings that take place as a part of a larger gathering hosted by MBZ, according to an individual briefed on the matter, who also requested anonymity. Many of them fly in on private jets and several do not clear customs. Some check into the Four Seasons Hotel while others arrive and stay on their yachts.
Individuals connected to the Saudi financial system, including the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency and the Arab National Bank, flew into the island the second week of January 2017, as did an aircraft purportedly owned by the former deputy minister of defense, Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, fight records show. Other individuals on those aircraft held passports from Egypt and Singapore.
Dmitriev flew into the Seychelles Jan. 11, 2017 with his wife Natalia Popova and another woman with the last name Boldovskaia. Six other Russian individuals flew to the island just a few days after Dmitriev. The aircraft's ownership is unclear but it flew between Russia, Geneva and Cyprus in 2017.
Others on the island included Alexander Mashkevitch, an alleged financier of Bayrock, an investment vehicle linked to Trump, and Sheikh Abdulrahman Khalid BinMahfouz, according to flight records. BinMahfouz's father, before his death, was a billionaire and the former chairman of Saudi Arabia's first private bank.
Nader travelled to Seychelles Jan. 7, 2017 and again on March 24 on an aircraft with the tail number VP-CZA, flight records show. The aircraft is registered to Gryphon Asset Management, an aviation consulting company based out of Dubai.
Prince and Nader were putting together a series of meetings to sell the Trump regime to the highest bidder, with some of the richest people on Earth in the hunt. These are the people Trump owes allegiance to. It's not just Putin, but multiple people from multiple countries.
And Mueller knows it all, guys. With the raid on Cohen, Trump is 100% exposed on this. The scope and size involved in this influence peddling will be utterly shocking.
But will Mueller be allowed to continue at this point? The NY Times is reporting that Trump not only tried to fire Mueller in June, but again told his advisers that Mueller had to go last December when the Mueller subpoenas of Trump-related finances from Germany's Deutsche Bank became known.
In early December, President Trump, furious over news reports about a new round of subpoenas from the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, told advisers in no uncertain terms that Mr. Mueller’s investigation had to be shut down.
The president’s anger was fueled by reports that the subpoenas were for obtaining information about his business dealings with Deutsche Bank, according to interviews with eight White House officials, people close to the president and others familiar with the episode. To Mr. Trump, the subpoenas suggested that Mr. Mueller had expanded the investigation in a way that crossed the “red line” he had set last year in an interview with The New York Times.
In the hours that followed Mr. Trump’s initial anger over the Deutsche Bank reports, his lawyers and advisers worked quickly to learn about the subpoenas, and ultimately were told by Mr. Mueller’s office that the reports were not accurate, leading the president to back down.
Mr. Trump’s quick conclusion that the erroneous news reports warranted firing Mr. Mueller is also an insight into Mr. Trump’s state of mind about the special counsel. Despite assurances from leading Republicans like Speaker Paul D. Ryan that the president has not thought about firing Mr. Mueller, the December episode was the second time Mr. Trump is now known to have considered taking that step. The other instance was in June, when the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, threatened to quit unless Mr. Trump stopped trying to get him to fire Mr. Mueller.
So Trump lost his marbles over this because he thought Mueller might have had the goods on him in December. What happens now that Trump's lawyer has been raided and Trump is really, truly screwed? Obstruction of justice doesn't matter if nobody's left to hold Trump accountable.
The Saturday Night Massacre may be on.
President Donald Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, multiple people familiar with the discussions tell CNN, a move that has gained urgency following the raid of the office of the President's personal lawyer.
Such an action could potentially further Trump's goal of trying to put greater limits on special counsel Robert Mueller.
This is one of several options -- including going so far as to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- Trump is weighing in the aftermath of the FBI's decision Monday to raid the office of Michael Cohen, the President's personal lawyer and longtime confidant.
Officials say if Trump acts, Rosenstein is his most likely target, but it's unclear whether even such a dramatic firing like this would be enough to satisfy the President.
Trump has long been angry at top Justice Department officials, who he feels have not done enough to protect him from Mueller's ongoing probe. But two sources said the raid could mark a tipping point that would prompt the President to take more aggressive action against the special counsel.
All indications are that he's off his rocker at this point. If Trump has somebody in mind to replace Rosenstein and/or Sessions, nobody knows. Either one could fire Mueller, or simply greatly curtail the investigation. That could maybe satisfy Trump. I bet it won't.
Don't count on Republicans in Congress to lift a finger to protect Mueller either. They'll say that Trump won't fire him right up until it happens, then say he always had the right to do it. The White House is already taking that stance, and Trump is meeting with GOP leaders later today to make that clear.
Stay tuned. We're at the breaking point, and something's going to give way, but keep in mind should Mueller actually be fired, he does have the option to make public everything he's found so far.
At this point, that might be what stays Trump's hand.