The saga of President Trump’s growing Russian scandal just took another explosive turn. The Washington Post has just revealed that Trump sent Blackwater founder Erik Prince to represent him at a secret meeting with an unknown Russian envoy in the Seychelles on January 11th for the purpose of establishing a back channel between Trump and Moscow.
It is unclear what was discussed at the meeting, but it is known that the United Arab Emirates, who brokered the meeting, wanted Trump to offer loosening of U.S. sanctions against Russia in exchange for reduced Russian support for Iran.
Erik Prince is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and is the creator of the private military corporation Blackwater, now named Academi, which gained worldwide notoriety after its contractors massacred seventeen unarmed civilians during the Iraq War. He now lives in the United Arab Emirates, where he is paid millions to train private security forces.
The Post goes on to note that the meeting was only the latest in a series of discussions between the Trump camp, Moscow, and the UAE. We already know disgraced ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner smuggled Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak into Trump Tower for a clandestine meeting; another secret conference was attended by Flynn, Kushner, Stephen Bannon, and Emirati crown prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who failed to inform the Obama administration he was visiting New York.
The specific purpose of the meeting was to set up a secret back-channel between Trump and Putin, says U.S., European and Arab officials. The UAE is pushing heavily to pressure Trump to drive a wedge between Russia and Tehran, which is currently waging war against the UAE/Saudi-backed Syrian rebels and the Yemeni government. The more radical ideologues around Trump like Stephen Bannon and Steve Miller are also pushing a heavy anti-Iran agenda. It is unlikely that Trump himself has a personal opinion on the matter.
“Separating Russia from Iran was a common theme. It didn’t seem very well thought out. It seemed a little premature. They clearly had a very specific policy position, which I found odd given that they hadn’t even taken the reins and explored with experts in the U.S. government the pros and cons of that approach” said an Obama advisor on the Trump transition team’s obsession with Iran.
It is unlikely that Trump himself has a strong personal opinion on the matter or even a basic understanding of the power games at play here.
Later meetings were planned but abandoned after the evidence of the rest of the Trump team’s potentially treasonous collusion with Russia began leaking, deemed to be too “politically sensitive” – which is an understatement.
These new revelations will only add more fuel to the fire smoldering under the White House – and it’s looking like Trump’s entire administration is going to get caught in the blaze.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.