Nunes met with Russia probe witness after backing away from probe


California Rep. Devin Nunes met with Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a witness in ongoing Russian election meddling probes, despite stepping back from the investigation.


Prince’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee was released Wednesday, and showed his denials of any impropriety in meeting a Russian government banker during a January visit to the Seychelles.


The businessman also denied holding the meeting as a representative of the Trump transition, under scrutiny after a Washington Post report that it was trying to set up a backchannel to the Kremlin before the inauguration.


Prince lashed out against the appearance of his name in that report, and spent a large chunk of his testimony discussing the “unmasking” of American citizens whose names are normally kept secret in foreign intelligence reports.

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He also acknowledged talking about the matter with Nunes, who appeared to recuse himself from the committee this April after he briefed the White House on classified intelligence without his colleagues.


Nunes has since started his own look into the unmasking, which former National Security Adviser Susan Rice reportedly said she did in order to better understand an unannounced visit to New York by the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates last year.


Prince, who said he did not receive an original request for testimony in the Russia probe sent back in May, told committee members that he talked to Nunes about Afghanistan in late summer or early autumn.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee last Thursday.

(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)


While many took Nunes’ April announcement as a full recusal, they have been surprised by his continued activity and his assertions that he had only momentarily backed down.


“I can do whatever I want, I’m the chairman of the committee,” he told CNN in June. “I voluntarily, temporarily stepped aside from leading the investigation.”


Prince did not reveal the content of his conversation with Nunes other than that it dealt with Afghanistan and the unmasking.


Nunes subpoenaed the FBI in August for information about the dossier on President Trump compiled by a former British spy Christopher Steele, which contains allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia.


The congressman’s office told multiple outlets Wednesday that the agency had not responded to his liking and he would move forward with a resolution to hold them in contempt.

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