Mike Pence lost all plausible deniability about his alleged ignorance of all things Russian today, if the Washington Post is correct that Pence benefactor and mentor Erik Prince is the "representative of Trump" named in an anonymous letter received by the Post in December; and moreover that Prince was a member of the Trump transition team all along.
The letter said among other things that Jared Kushner had talked to Sergei Kislyak about setting up a secret and secure communications channel between the Trump administration and the Kremlin. The letter also made reference to a “Trump representative” meeting with a Russian contact to set up the communications channel and the Trump representative is Erik Prince. If The Washington Post is correct, and it certainly appears that way, there is absolutely no way that Pence can maintain he didn’t know everything about Flynn and Trump-Russia, and that he learned it first hand from Mike Flynn, Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Erik Prince. This could be more than a leak, this could be a deluge, where Mike Pence and his credibility are concerned. The Washington Post said this:
In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter.
The Post reported in April that Erik Prince, the former founder of the private security firm Blackwater and an informal adviser to the Trump transition team, met on Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Could Erik Prince be the representative of Trump that is referred to? It certainly seems that way. And take a look at what else the Post reported on April 3:
The Post reports that the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and an un-named Russian close to Vladimir Putin, with the alleged goal of establishing a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and and the Trump transition team, headed by Mike Pence, according to U.S, European and Arab officials.
Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.
Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.
Prince and his family were major GOP donors in 2016. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that the family gave more than $10 million to GOP candidates and super PACs, including about $2.7 million from his sister, DeVos, and her husband.
Erik Prince has had lucrative contracts with the UAE government, which at one point paid his firm a reported $529 million to help bring in foreign fighters to help assemble an internal paramilitary force capable of carrying out secret operations and protecting Emirati installations from terrorist attacks.
The Washington Post goes on to point out that Erik Prince would have been perceived as way too controversial to serve in an official capacity on the transition team. But unquestionably Prince was a terrific go between because of his experience as an ex CIA agent and former Navy Seal, experience which arguably qualifies him for yet more clandestine endeavors, coupled with his relationship with the royal leaders of the Emirates, where he moved to in 2010 amid mounting legal problems with his American business.
Before the Seychelles meeting and for weeks afterward, the UAE believed that Prince had the blessing of the new administration to act as its unofficial representative. The "Russian participant" was a person whom the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Zayed knew was close to Putin from his interactions with both men, officials said. And less than a week before the Seychelles meeting, U.S. intelligence agencies released a report accusing Russia of intervening clandestinely during the 2016 election to help Trump win the White House.
Erik Prince is an interesting character. Erik Prince portrays himself as a mix between Indiana Jones, Rambo, Captain America, and Pope Benedict, according to The Intercept article, "Mike Pence Will Be The Most Powerful Christian Supremacist In U.S. History." Mike Pence and Erik Prince go back a long ways. Erik Prince is Mike Pence's benefactor. Mike Pence is Neo to Erik Prince's Morpheus. Bankrolling Mike Pence so that he can become POTUS and implement dominionist rule in Washington is Erik Prince and Mike Pence's dream. The Intercept said this:
...his close relationship to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater. In December 2007, three months after Blackwater operatives gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square; Pence and his Republican Study Committee, which served “the purpose of advancing a conservative social and economic agenda in the House of Representatives,” organized a gathering to welcome Prince to Washington. But their relationship is not just forged in wars. Prince and his mother, Elsa, have been among the top funders of scores of anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives across the country and have played a key role in financing efforts to criminalize abortion.
Prince has long given money to Pence’s political campaigns, and toward the end of the presidential election, he contributed $100,000 to the pro-Trump/Pence Super PAC Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother kicked in another $50,000. [...] Erik Prince...portrays himself as a mix between Indiana Jones, Rambo, Captain America, and Pope Benedict...
Bear in mind that the $150,000 from mother and son to Mike Pence was a routine gesture; not a one-time contribution. Also bear in mind the number of anti-gay bills and anti-gay legislators and do the arithmetic on what kind of money it takes to be “among the top funders for scores” of those fund raising drives and campaigns across the country. A bit more background on Prince and his family, also from The Intercept article:
The Prince family’s support for Pence, and the Christian supremacist movement he represents, has deep roots. Erik Prince’s father, Edgar, built up a very successful manufacturing business in Holland, Michigan, and became one of the premier bankrollers of what came to be known as the radical religious right. They gave Gary Bauer the seed money to start the Family Research Council and poured money into James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. “Ed Prince was not an empire builder. He was a Kingdom builder,” Bauer recalled soon after the elder Prince’s death. “For him, personal success took a back seat to spreading the Gospel and fighting for the moral restoration of our society.” Erik Prince’s sister Betsy married Dick DeVos, whose father, Richard, founded the multilevel marketing firm Amway and went on to own the Orlando Magic basketball team. The two families merged together like the monarchies of old Europe and swiftly emerged as platinum-level contributors to far-right Christian causes and political figures.
The Prince and DeVos families gave the seed money for what came to be known as the Republican Revolution when Newt Gingrich became House speaker in 1994 on a far-right platform known as the Contract with America. The Prince and DeVos clans also invested heavily in a scheme developed by Dobson to engage in back-door lobbying activities by forming “prayer warrior” networks of people who would call politicians to advocate for Dobson’s religious and political agenda. The Princes consistently poured money into criminalizing abortion, privatizing education, blocking gay rights, and other right-wing causes centered around their interpretation of Christianity.
So much for Mike Pence and Erik Prince's history together. To get current with the present day, the FBI was already investigating communications between Flynn and Kislyak, and the Post wrote about that on January 12th. The Seychelles meeting took place on or about January 12th as well. Then came the firing of Flynn ostensibly for misleading Mike Pence. Less than one week later, per the Post, U.S. Intelligence agencies accused Russia of intervening clandestinely in the 2016 election in order to help Trump get elected.
The Post makes it clear that although Erik Prince may not have had any official title or played any direct role on the Trump transition team his name "surfaced so frequently in internal discussions that he seemed to function as an outside adviser whose opinions were valued on a range of issues." Additionally, the Post reports, and isn't this interesting, "He appears to have particularly close ties to Steve Bannon, appearing multiple times on the Breitbart satellite radio program and website that Bannon ran before joining the Trump campaign.”
So here we have all the ducks in a row, Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Erik Prince, and Steve Bannon. Erik Prince lives in a world where a jeep arrives on a tarmac, shadowy figures pile out and go up the ramp of a private jet, and the jet disappears into the setting sun. Erik Prince is clandestine personified. So naturally Erik Prince denied everything about the Seychelle's meeting or about his role as an unofficial but nonetheless very real member of the transition team, right alongside Mike Pence.
“We are not aware of any meetings, and Erik Prince had no role in the transition,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.
A Prince spokesman said in a statement: “Erik had no role on the transition team. This is a complete fabrication. The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump. Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”
Mike Pence has been playing games pretending that he is a Washington outsider, which defies the imagination let alone common sense. He has lost all plausible deniability after today. It will be interesting to see him squirm out of this one. Pence and Prince were side by side on the transition team and the Washington Post has it down in black and white and considerable detail. After today's bombshell about Jared Kushner requesting a communications back channel a lot more dots are getting connected in the Trump Russia investigation. Yeah, Mike, as the Hoosier good ole boys say, “Last time there was a leak like this, Noah done got hisself a boat.”