Schiff plans to refer Trump backers testimony to DOJ

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/rep-adam-schiff-accuses-erik-prince-lying-congress/story?id=62727339

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., made a criminal referral to the Justice Department about Trump campaign supporter Erik Prince’s congressional testimony, arguing he “willingly misled the committee.”

Interested in Russia Investigation?

Add Russia Investigation as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Russia Investigation news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

Schiff accused Prince, a military contractor who founded Blackwater and whose sister, Betsy DeVos, serves as President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, of making false statements to Congress about his meeting with a Russian banker in January of 2017, shortly before Trump’s inauguration.

In the 16-page referral, transmitted Tuesday afternoon, Schiff identified what he said were “at least six categories of materially false statements that Mr. Prince made during his testimony about his January 11, 2017 meeting in the Seychelles.”

The meeting in the Seychelles Islands raised suspicions with investigators that the two were trying to set up a back-channel between the Kremlin and the Trump administration.

PHOTO: Erik Prince, chairman and executive director of Frontier Services Group Ltd., walks to a closed-door House Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 30, 2017.Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE
Erik Prince, chairman and executive director of Frontier Services Group Ltd., walks to a closed-door House Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 30, 2017.

Both publicly and before the House Intelligence Committee during testimony in November of 2017, Prince has sought to paint the meeting as a chance encounter “over a beer,” insisting he “didn’t fly there to meet any Russian guy.”

He testified that he traveled to Seychelles for a meeting with United Arab Emirates officials about possible business opportunities, and they introduced him to Dmitriev.

But Schiff, after reviewing a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, suggested otherwise.

“We know from the Mueller report now that it was not a chance meeting, that he had preparatory materials about him before he left,” Schiff said Tuesday, “He was also asked whether he was attempting to establish a backchannel for the Trump transition or campaign, which he also denied.”

PHOTO: Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 19, 2017.Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE
Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 19, 2017.

“So in very material ways, I think the evidence strongly suggests that he willingly misled our committee and the Justice Department needs to consider whether to make a prosecutable case,” Schiff added.

An attorney for Prince, Matthew L. Schwartz, insisted Tuesday “there’s nothing new here for the Department of Justice to consider.”

A source close to Prince recently downplayed the threat of perjury before Congress to ABC News, accusing members of Congress of asking “imprecise” questions during his testimony.

Last year, the Russian investment fund manager, a Putin ally named Kirill Dmitriev, suggested to ABC News that he had wanted to meet with Prince in order to improve relations between the U.S and Russia.

“I cannot comment much more on this meeting— all I can say is that we are meeting hundreds of business people throughout the year and we believe that the goal of restoring U.S.-Russia relations is a good one, it’s a noble one and we want to unite different people who want to restore U.S.-Russia relations,” Dmitriev told ABC News.

ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel contributed reporting.