Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, got into a number of heated exchanges with lawmakers during his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, CNN reports.
Democrats on the committee grilled Prince about a meeting he had with President Donald Trump’s then-chief strategist Steve Bannon before a trip to Seychelles where he met a Russian oligarch.
According to transcripts of the testimony released by the Committee, Prince denied that he tried to use the trip to set up back-channel communications with the Russians when he met Russian hedge fund manager Kirill Dmitriev.
He admitted that Bannon did tell him about a Trump Tower meeting with United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and that Bannon sent him unsolicited policy papers during the campaign, but denied that he acted as a representative of the Trump administration when he met with Emirati dignitaries.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, grilled Price whether anyone on Trump’s campaign indicated they were communicating with the Russians through back-channels.
“Front side, back side, no side never got any indication of anything like that,” Prince replied.
Prince said his meetings with the UAE officials and his trip to Seychelles had nothing to do with Russia.
“The Emiratis I’d just met with previously said, there’s an interesting guy from Russia you should meet if you have any business in the commodity space, which I do,” Prince said. “I look at minerals and oil and gas. He said, you should meet him. So I met him in the bar and had a drink.”
Schiff said that Prince did not “adequately explain why he traveled halfway around the world to meet with UAE officials or Dmitriev.”
“On the details of this meeting, Prince was again less than forthcoming and sought to represent that his discussion with Dmitriev, which comprised a third of the time he was conducting meetings in the Seychelles, was merely coincidental,” Schiff said in the statement.
The transcript shows a number of combative exchanges between Schiff and Prince.
“Now listen. It’s 5:30. I haven’t been home in a week. I flew in this morning from Africa, and I’ve had about enough of this. So thank you,” Prince told Schiff after a request to extend the meeting.
“It’s not up to you to decide how long the hearing goes on,” Schiff told Prince.
“It is, because I’m here voluntarily,” Prince replied.
“You may be used to operating this way in your business, Mr. Prince,” Schiff said.
Prince insisted that he and Dimitriev only spoke about “trade matters and how the United States and Russia should be working together to defeat Islamic terrorism,” as well as the prices of oil and minerals.
Dimitriev’s firm was previously sanctioned by the United States. Prince claimed that they did not discuss sanctions.
Prince claimed he did not do much research on Dimitriev before meeting him.
“I was roaming, so data roaming is expensive when you’re overseas,” Prince quipped.
When asked why Abu Dhabi’s crown prince suddenly reached out to him after having no contact for a long time, Prince replied, “I think the Obama administration went out of their way to tarnish my ability to do business in the Middle East, and with a different administration in town, they probably figured that that downdraft wasn’t present anymore.”
Prince later accused a number of Obama officials, including former national security adviser Susan Rice, of leaking electronic surveillance of his meeting with the Russian oligarch.