Schiff says House will make a criminal referral of Trump ally Erik Prince for possible perjury
WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Tuesday that his panel would make a criminal referral to the Justice Department regarding potential false testimony by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of the private military contractor Blackwater and an ally of President Trump.
“The evidence is so weighty that the Justice Department needs to consider this,” Schiff said during a Washington Post Live event.
Among other things, Schiff pointed to a meeting that took place nine days before Trump took office between Prince and a Russian financier close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles islands.
Prince later told congressional officials examining Russia’s interference in the presidential election that the meeting happened by chance and was not taken at the behest of the incoming administration — testimony that congressional Democrats now think was false.
The Committee has formally referred Erik Prince to the DOJ for consideration of a potential criminal prosecution for false testimony.
— House Intelligence Committee (@HouseIntel) April 30, 2019
Prince told special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators a version of the Seychelles meeting that is at odds in several key respects with his sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017.
“We know from the Mueller report that that was not a chance meeting,” Schiff told Post reporter Robert Costa during an interview at the event. “We know there were communications after he returned.”
“In very material ways I think the evidence strongly suggests that he willingly misled our committee and the Justice Department needs to consider whether there’s a prosecutable case,” Schiff added.
In a statement, a lawyer for Prince said there “is no new evidence here.” Matthew Schwartz said: “Erik Prince’s House testimony has been public for months, including at all times that Mr. Prince met with the Special Counsel’s Office. Mr. Prince cooperated completely with the Special Counsel’s investigation, as its report demonstrates. There is nothing new here for the Department of Justice to consider, nor is there any reason to question the Special Counsel’s decision to credit Mr. Prince and rely on him in drafting its report.”
Exclusive: Erik Prince – founder of the private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of President Trump – has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple #Venezuela President Maduro, four sources told Reuters. https://t.co/7CXP24QBtK
— Jonathan Landay (@JonathanLanday) April 30, 2019
At this juncture, neither the Senate nor the House intelligence committees know the details of Prince’s proffer with Mueller – and whether he struck a deal that could shield him from prosecution.
Schiff noted Tuesday that if Prince gave the special counsel’s team information “under the condition it not be used against him, then being able to prove” that he lied to lawmakers “might be problematic.”
Congressional Democrats are also looking into whether White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. lied to them during their interviews with congressional panels.
Two months ago, Erik Prince responded that the U.S. Congress “got the transcript wrong” when asked why he didn’t tell the House Intel Committee about an Aug 2016 meeting he attended at Trump Tower. pic.twitter.com/2Msv5gMVXe
— Head to Head (@AJHeadtoHead) April 30, 2019
Details in Mueller’s report have solidified many Democrats’ concerns that Trump Jr. lied to them about the details surrounding the June 2016 meeting that he and others from the Trump campaign held with a Russian lawyer promising “dirt” on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and seeking to discuss sanctions against Russia with the campaign.
The report has also sparked new concerns, among House investigators in particular, that Kushner misled lawmakers about the pre-inauguration contacts his business associate, Rick Gerson, had with Kirill Dmitriev, the banker who met with Prince in the Seychelles.
Analysis: Could Erik Prince be in perjury trouble? https://t.co/Kct7CGqyHL
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 30, 2019
But Democrats are reluctant to levy official accusations against Kushner and Trump Jr. until they are able to view the substance of the redactions in Mueller’s report, as well as see the transcripts of the interviews the special counsel conducted with those witnesses, to determine whether they in fact lied to lawmakers.
When asked specifically about Kushner and Trump Jr. Tuesday, Schiff demurred, saying he would not comment on those individuals.
“We have reached the point of ripeness with Erik Prince’s testimony that we feel it appropriate to refer it,” he added.
In a separate interview at the Washington Post Live event, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Republicans are also considering referring some congressional witnesses to the Justice Department for possibly lying to Congress.
Meadows said the GOP is looking at two or three people. He declined to name them but suggested at least one is connected to Fusion GPS, the firm behind a controversial dossier alleging Trump had personal and financial ties to Russia.