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Democrats grill Prince about Bannon meeting

Democrats grill Prince about Bannon meeting

Prince told congressional investigators that he was a donor to Trump's campaign who later submitted policy papers to members of the president-elect's transition team.

Prince, chairman of the Hong-Kong-based Frontier Services Group, said he knew Dmitriev was a Russian fund manager, but didn't realise that the Russian government controlled it and that it had been sanctioned by the USA since 2015 due to Russia's actions in Ukraine.

Prince and Dmitriev spoke about "trade matters and how the United States and Russian Federation should be working together to defeat Islamic terrorism", Prince told the committee.

Prince also said that his trip to the Seychelles, which he said was to meet with UAE officials about business opportunities, did not have anything to do with Russian Federation.

Erik Prince, founder of military contractor Blackwater and a supporter of President Donald Trump, told U.S. lawmakers he had discussed U.S. -Russia relations during a meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian business executive with ties to the Kremlin, but insisted they did not discuss sanctions.

But Prince said he could not remember whether the conversation with Bannon took place before or after his trip to the Seychelles. "That's all I recall of that conversation". "I played no official or, really, unofficial role", he said of the campaign.

Democrats on the panel have pointed out that the December meeting between the Trump transition and the UAE took place just weeks prior to Prince's January 11 meeting with Dmitriev, which was brokered by Emirati officials. Those meetings were similarly brief, he said. The investigative outlet The Intercept first identified Russian banker Kirill Dmitriev as having met with Prince during the island visit.

Committee Democrats have characterized his answers as incomplete.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, said after the testimony was released that Prince had been less than forthcoming and sought to represent his meeting with Dmitriev as coincidental.

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Prince testified before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors on November 30, and the committee released the transcript of his testimony on Wednesday.

"Prince also could not adequately explain why he traveled halfway around the world to meet with UAE officials and, ultimately, the head of the Russian fund", Schiff said in a statement.

The Washington Post in April reported Prince's meeting in the Seychelles with an unidentified Russian close to Putin.

The Washington Times reported on Wednesday about Obama national security aides making long, concerted efforts in public and private to damage President Trump as candidate, president-elect and president.

Prince said he had traveled to the Seychelles for a business meeting with UAE officials, who included Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and they suggested he talk to Dmitriev. The Post attributed its April story to U.S., European and Arab officials.

He declined to provide the committee the names of those individuals in an unclassified setting, but was adamant that the Obama administration had inappropriately manipulated signals intelligence, or SIGINT.

"That comes back to my concern about, what is the community going to do about unlawful leaking and the political abuse of the intelligence apparatus that affects Americans?" he said.

Prince also said he did not remember when or where he had a conversation with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in which Bannon told Prince he had met MBZ in NY in December, just weeks before Prince traveled to the Seychelles.

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