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Erik Prince's secret Seychelles trip was actually an embarrassing failure, according to the Mueller report
Erik Prince — the former Navy SEAL, Blackwater founder, and self-styled savior of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan — apparently used his secretive meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian moneyman linked to President Vladimir Putin to argue against Moscow's military involvement in Libya.
According to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report into Trump-Russia collusion released Thursday, businessman George Nader arranged for Prince to meet with Kirill Dmitriev, the Putin-connected head of a the Russian Direct Investment Fund, telling the former that that "had been pushing Nader to introduce him to someone from the incoming Administration."
Despite this enthusiasm for making inroads with the nascent Trump administration, Dmitriev was apparently "not enthusiastic" about meeting with Prince until Nader reassured him otherwise by pointing out that hey, his sister will be Secretary of Education soon!
"This guy [Prince] is designated by Steve [Bannon] to meet you!," Nader told Prince in a text message on Jan. 9, 2017, less than two weeks before Trump's. "I know him and he is very very well connected and trusted by the New Team. His sister [Betsy Devos] is now a Minister of Education."
Dmitriev and Prince met in the Seychelles two days later on Jan. 11. according to the Mueller report, the meeting mostly consisted of Prince talking himself up, telling Dmitriev that he "provided policy papers to Bannon ... [and] that he would inform Bannon about his meeting with Dmitriev."
That's where things get tense:
Prince was probably referring to the live-fire exercise conducted by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and its battle group off the Libyan coast and the subsequent visit from eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar. These aren't the greatest events, but the Russian Ministry of Defense had previously announced it was recalling the Kuznetsov battle group from the Mediterranean Sea after negotiating a temporary ceasefire deal in Syria with Iran and Turkey, not retasking to carrier to Libya.
It seems like Prince really leaned into his own bluster — and Dmitriev, uh, did not receive Prince's bravado well at all:
That Seychelles meeting had been previously described by U.S. officials as "an apparent effort to establish a backchannel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump." But not only did Prince achieve nothing, but nobody back home on Team Trump seemed to care.
When Prince returned from the Seychelles on Jan. 12, he "contacted Bannon's personal assistant to set up a meeting for the following week," according to the Mueller report. "Several days later, Prince messaged her again asking about Bannon's schedule."
When he finally met with Bannon, the incoming White House advisor "instructed Prince not to follow up with Dmitriev, and Prince had the impression that the issue was not a priority for Bannon," according to the Mueller report. "Prince related that Bannon did not appear angry, just relatively uninterested."
When asked about Prince's Seychelles meeting Bannon the Office of the Special Counsel that "he never discussed with Prince anything regarding Dmitriev, RDIF, or any meetings with Russian individuals or people associated with Putin," according to the Mueller report. "He also stated that had Prince mentioned such a meeting, Bannon would have remembered it, and Bannon would have objected to such a meeting having taken place."
Honestly, it sounds like Bannon straight up didn't remember because he didn't care. Either way, Prince was recently caught attempting to cover up what appears to be a lie in his earlier testimony before Congress. So much for Prince being a "very very well connected and trusted by the New Team."
Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.