Yep. It’s true. But why would information on the President’s daughter and her business dealings be included in a House document request to the founder of Blackwater? I have thoughts. Read on.
Background: Erik Prince and FSG (Frontier Services Group)
Former Navy SEAL and founder of the now nonexistent private security company Blackwater, who held the title of CEO for the Hong Kong-based private equity firm Frontier Services Group (FSG), Erik Prince, and his former company are on the House Oversight Committees’ list for examination and inspection.
Prince’s Frontier Services Group main headquarters were split between Hong Kong and Beijing within the People’s Republic of China. One of its sole investors was the state-owned CITIC Group or the China International Trust Investment Corporation out of Beijing. CITIC Group is heavily invested in China’s African oil endeavors, especially China’s major oil production region, South Sudan, for those of you unaware.
Erik Prince (who happens to be the blood brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ICYMI) has made no secret about his ambitions in China. Prince stepped down as FSG Chairman in December to make way for a new boss from the conglomerate, which has amassed a bigger stake than Prince’s 9 percent.
FSG has recently drawn international attention for a signing ceremony to build a training center in far western China, where the Chinese government has detained as many as a million Uighur Muslims in political camps. The statement, made in Chinese, was subsequently removed from the firm’s website. Prince quickly tried to distance himself.
“Erik Prince has no plans, desire nor interest to engage in any activity whatsoever either personally, through FSG or any other vehicle in Xinjiang Province now or at any time in the future,” an FSG spokesman added.
“I am a businessman, not a politician, but I am also a proud American who would never do anything against my country’s national interest,” Prince said in a phone interview.
While the U.S. and China are at odds over trade, and the Pentagon said in its 2018 National Defense Strategy that strategic competition with China and Russia are the new top priority, Prince is sure Washington and Beijing will work it all out. He said he keeps his eye on the prize of the thirst for resources in the world’s most populous nation that will drive growth for FSG.
Ultimately, “the two nations will go on and remain friendly,” he said. Even as China’s economic growth slows, it will still demand “more and more energy and natural resources and places for their products to go.”
Erik Prince Is No Stranger to Legal Woes
It doesn’t stop there. Erik Prince was also once investigated by then private attorney, Christopher Wray, back in 2016 along with a supervised team of lawyers that informed the Justice Department that the Blackwater founder had likely violated U.S. law while trying to sell secretly modified paramilitary attack aircraft to Azerbaijan’s military.
Wray and Robert Hur, now a senior Justice Department official, were both partners at the powerhouse law firm King & Spalding in 2015 when officials at Prince’s Hong Kong-based logistics company, Frontier Services Group, discovered suspicious activity by Prince over the proposed sale of the planes. Hur is currently the top lieutenant to Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. deputy attorney general. At King & Spalding, he was one of the lead lawyers on the Prince investigation.
FSG retained King & Spalding to conduct a review of the company’s legal exposure to violations of U.S. law on weapons sales and the export of defense services to foreign governments and militaries. The attorneys concluded that Prince could potentially be charged with brokering defense articles without a license, according to a copy of the review obtained by The Intercept. The FSG-hired lawyers briefed the Obama Justice Department’s National Security Division in February 2016 on Prince’s activities and, a month later, FSG’s CEO notified the State Department that FSG intended to voluntarily report its possible violations of U.S. defense export laws.
“The potential violations stem principally from the conduct of Mr. Prince, a U.S. person,” CEO Gregg Smith wrote to the director of the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, which regulates the export of defense articles and services, in a letter obtained by The Intercept.
What action, if any, the Justice Department took after Wray’s team shared their initial findings has not been made public. “We were perplexed by the lack of immediate action” by the State and Justice departments, the former senior FSG official told The Intercept, adding that he and others at the company got the impression that “nobody wanted to dig into this until after the  election.”
At King & Spalding, Wray chaired the special matters and government investigations team, though it is unclear how involved he was in its day-to-day work or the FSG investigation. “Chris led the group that our attorneys reported to,” said the former senior FSG official.
The team Wray led reads like a who’s who of former Justice Department officials. Hur, who worked with Rosenstein in the George W. Bush Justice Department before his most recent stint at King & Spalding, and Gary Grindler, former chief of staff to former Attorney General Eric Holder, took the lead in briefing the government on the Prince situation in 2016.
“The evidence strongly suggests that Mr. Prince was offering a foreign defense article (i.e., an attack aircraft) for sale to the Azerbaijan MOD,” according to the internal investigation.
Asked about the status of any investigations into Prince stemming from King & Spalding’s work, Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores told The Intercept: “We don’t comment, confirm, or deny the existence of investigations.” Grindler, who is still a partner at King & Spalding, said he is “unable to comment because all of the information I have is covered by the attorney-client privilege.”
For his part, Erik Prince appears emboldened by the Donald Trump presidency. He gave heartily to a pro-Trump super PAC and his sister, Betsy DeVos, is the education secretary. Prince continues to very publicly push for the Trump administration to utilize his private spy and security services with no apparent concern that the FBI or Justice Department may be pursuing him. On Sunday, Prince and Oliver North, of Iran-Contra fame, hosted a fundraiser at Prince’s home in Virginia for his longtime friend California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who is not on this list, as noted by Sarah Kendzior. She, along with I, hope he is included in the next round of document requests from Nadler and his Committee.
It should be duly noted that Prince has further emerged as a central figure in the investigation of possible collusion between Trump and his associates and Russia. He testified before the House Intelligence Committee in November on his alleged efforts to establish a secret back channel between Trump and Russia during a meeting in Seychelles in January 2017. Prince told the panel he had not played any such role, but some top Democrats on the committee state they are examining whether he misled them under oath. So why is he, along with his company, now being asked to provide documentation to the Oversight Committee? Did he lie to Congress back in November? Let’s review what is being asked.
The Document Request to FSG
You can review the request verbatim, on the House Judiciary Committee website, along with the other 80 document requests and individuals: Frontier Services Group House Oversight Committee Document Requests
There are 9 items on this list. Let’s break down a few of the important ones, that get to the point of this article.
Any a) foreign government or b) Any U.S. federal, state, or local domestic government discussing, offering, or providing, or being solicited to discuss, offer, or provide, any present or emolument of any kind whatever on or after November 8, 2016 to (1) Donald Trump or his Business Interests; (2) Trump Organization; (3) Jared Kushner or his Business Interests; (4) Ivanka Trump or her Business Interests; or (5) the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee.
So why would Erik Prince know of any foreign governments discussing, offering or providing payments to the individuals above? According to Erik Prince’s own testimony before Congress Oversight back in 2007, I would suppose. I could be wrong, but this is pretty telling as to why FSG is on the list. With heavy influence in China, Erik Prince may give us insight into why Ivanka was granted 5 trademarks from China in January of this year, and 16 in October of 2018, giving her a grand total of 34 Chinese trademarks. For WHAT?!?!? And did she use her position in the White House to benefit from those trademarks? That’s what we should be looking at here, as well as her failed clothing line and the use of sweatshops and kickbacks.
Overall, Ivanka Trump Marks L.L.C., her trademarking business, has filed 173 foreign trademarks in 21 countries, as well as in Hong Kong and the European Union, in little more than a decade, according to the Times analysis. There are probably more since there is no single repository of all global trademarks. All of the applications on record took place before she was a White House adviser.
Ivanka Trump — a senior White House adviser who has done everything from lobbying the Senate on tax policy to representing her father at a G20 summit of world leaders — has profited more than $1 million a year from the family business that has continued to develop luxury resorts across the globe during the Trump presidency.
Some of those Trump-branded developments are hiring state-owned companies for construction, receiving gifts from foreign governments in the form of public land or eased regulations and accepting payments from customers who are foreign officials, which applies to both document requests a and b.
c) Any loan, financing transaction, or capital investment by the Russian Federation, any Russian national, any Russian business, or any other Russian entity to the Trump Organization, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, or any of their Business Interests. This request shall include the period from January 1, 2015 to the present and shall exclude documents relating to the purchase of individual condominium, cooperative, or apartment units.
Now, ladies and gentleman, this one is a good one. Did you know that Erik Prince was subpoenaed by Mueller about a private meeting he had with a Russian fund manager in Seychelles in January 2017, right before Trump’s inauguration?
Anonymous sources have long claimed to reporters that the purpose of the Seychelles meeting was for Trump’s team to covertly communicate with Putin’s team. After all, it happened just weeks after Jared Kushner reportedly told the Russians that he wanted to set up a back channel through which they could communicate.
But Prince has hotly denied that that’s what happened, including in sworn testimony last year. He said he just made the Seychelles trip for business reasons, that he was in no way representing Trump, and that the meeting with Dmitriev was both entirely unplanned on his end and completely uneventful.
It appears, though, that Nadler is telling the grand jury otherwise by requesting documents from Erik Prince this week, and ladies and gentleman, as I read through the documents fuming about a missing name…I got a little surprise.
Ivanka Trump Under Scrutiny
Source: Reuters/Carlos Barria
Did you see what I saw above? Good. Not just the White Power symbol either. I’m referring to Ivanka and her business named specifically in the Frontier Services Group document requests.
So while I was in a tizzy Monday, as were many of you, thinking she was getting off scot-free, she actually wasn’t. AND her reports are due on March 17th. These same document requests for Ivanka and her business, appear in the document request for her husband, Jared Kushner, so spousal privilege clearly does not apply here. I’m not an attorney either so I could be wrong, but Ivanka seems to be in deep on this one. Finally! Not only that, anywhere you see Trump Organization, you can rest assured, that she’s included as one of the Executive Vice Presidents, along with her siblings.
In the Trump family business, Donald gave Ivanka a “level of authority none of his wives, or for that matter executives, have ever had”, says The New York Times. She handled some of the Trump Organization’s biggest deals and along with her elder two brothers, Donald Jr and Erik, has often preached fiscal conservatism in direct contrast to her father’s modus operandi.
After initially suggesting she would not take an official role in the White House during Trump’s campaign, Ivanka as we all know was eventually appointed to an official government post, joining her husband Jared Kushner as an adviser to her father.
At the time, the New York Times said Ivanka’s role “amounts to the formal recognition of the value Mr. Trump places on the judgment and loyalty of both his daughter and his son-in-law”. However, the paper added, while past presidents have called on family members to provide unofficial counsel and advice, “giving them a formal role has few precedents”.
Ethics experts criticized the appointment, arguing it allows her to avoid financial disclosure rules. Which is a problem in and of itself.
“This arrangement appears designed to allow Ms. Trump to avoid the ethics, conflict-of-interest and other rules that apply to White House employees,” Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, ethics lawyers for former presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush, respectively, wrote in a letter to the White House counsel.
Eisen added that the decision to appoint a nuclear family member to such a position was “a lot of nepotism”. We all can agree here.
Another alarming fact: around the middle of the October, with Inauguration Day barely a month away, Ivanka Trump was requested to help resolve a conflict between inaugural planners and her family’s Washington hotel, according to emails.
The dilemma: Organizers thought the hotel was charging too much money. Emails show that Ivanka Trump connected Gates with Mickael Damelincourt, managing director of the hotel. Damelincourt responded with a new rate of $175,000 per day for use of the Presidential Ballroom and meeting rooms, offering a $700,000 charge for four days of use.
If the Trump hotel charged the inaugural committee above-market rates, it would violate tax rules, according to Owens, the nonprofit tax expert who is now a partner at the law firm Loeb & Loeb. And we know that Ivanka had her hands all over the business at that time, and would also be revealed in line item b.
Officials in the administration continue to explain away Ivanka Trump’s presence at key moments in the Trump-Russia timeline as someone who was there but not there: Yes, she was around Bedminster the weekend of the Comey firing, they say, but she was playing with her kids, not plotting to oust the FBI director.
Absolutely, she was on the plane home from Germany, but she spent most of her time in the back cabin, away from the discussion of how to craft a statement on behalf of her brother, Don Jr. You seeing a pattern here?
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has said: “it would be valuable to have her come and testify.”
Speaking to reporters in January, Schiff added: “if there’s credible information that Ivanka Trump had contact with any of the participants in that meeting at the time of that meeting, she should be brought in.”
Looks like we will now get that chance, and I hope it’s as glorious and revealing as I am imaging it to be.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer who called Trump a “racist”, a “con man” and a “cheat” in his public congressional testimony last week, is being required to turn over “any audio or video recordings” of conversations with Trump or conversations about his presidential campaign to the committee, shortly after session ended last week.
The list of document requests also includes the National Rifle Association and Trump’s charitable foundation, which he is shutting down after agreeing to a court-supervised process.
Nadler said in most of the letters that he was limiting the requests to documents that had already been provided to other investigators, in an attempt to receive as much as possible in the two-week timeline. The committee said there might be additional requests in the coming days and weeks, so it’s literally a reporter’s dream come true right now. So much information to dissect for you guys, and we are here for every single word of it.
I want you all to be realistic with this process, as we are already witnessing the White House refusing to turn over documents related to Kushner’s security clearance. Even the Committee expects some people to produce right away, and others may eventually face subpoenas, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
The person declined to be named to discuss the committee’s internal process.
Nadler said last Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” the Democrats are simply doing “our job to protect the rule of law” after Republicans during the first two years of Trump’s term were “shielding the president from any proper accountability.”
People are finally doing their jobs (thanks to our new blue Congress). Let’s find out the truth.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think about the document requests and any of the individuals and situations you’ve learned about if you have dived into them.
As a friendly reminder, if you are not involved in any type of digital activism or boots on the ground activism, I highly encourage you to do so. The soul of our democracy is in our hands. Support the democratic candidate, whoever that person is, and stop the infighting. Focus on what’s happening and being laid out right before our eyes. We are upon unprecedented times.
Stay strong, be well and see you next Wednesday!
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