Al Jazeera journalist Mehdi Hassan gave a master class in how to confront lies during his interview with Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater (now known as Academi) and brother to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Although Prince lied to Congress and attempted to be evasive during that interview, it confirms a story the New York Times reported last spring about a second Trump Tower meeting that took place on August 3, 2016, just two months after Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with Russians to get “information that would incriminate Hillary.”
The meeting in August was attended by:
- Donald Trump, Jr.
- George Nader, emissary to princes in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates
- Joel Zamel, head of Psy-Group, an Israeli firm specializing in social media manipulation
- Erik Prince, who arranged the meeting
You might remember that it was George Nader who went on to arrange a clandestine meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev, who manages a Russian sovereign wealth fund and is thought to be close to Vladimir Putin.
Zamel also has Russian ties.
One of his firms had previously worked for oligarchs linked to Mr. Putin, including Oleg V. Deripaska and Dmitry Rybolovlev, who hired the firm for online campaigns against their business rivals.
Prince told Hassan that the August meeting was about Iran, just as the June meeting was supposedly about adoptions. But here’s what the NYT reported:
The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump…
It is unclear whether such a proposal was executed, and the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute. But Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.
Just as a reminder, it is illegal for foreign governments or individuals to be involved in American elections. The fact that Prince was arranging meetings like this that were attended by Don, Jr., is a problem in and of itself—for the same reason that the June Trump Tower meeting was a problem. It is clear that Donald Trump was, at minimum, open to discussing how foreign governments could help him get elected.