House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. 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.
Prince told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’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 materials ways I think the evidence strongly suggests that he willingly mislead our committee and the Justice Department needs to consider whether there’s a prosecutable case,” Schiff added.
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.”
“In very materials ways I think the evidence strongly suggests that he willingly mislead our committee and the Justice Department needs to consider whether there’s a prosecutable case.”
Congressional Democrats are also looking into whether Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. lied to them during their interviews with congressional panels.
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 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 Dmitriev, the banker who met with Prince in the Seychelles.
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, in order 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.
Shane Harris contributed to this report.