Blackwater founder Erik Prince says Mueller asked about meeting Russian Putin pal in Seychelles: 'You probably would rather go to a proctology exam'

Key Points
  • Blackwater founder Erik Prince said he would have preferred getting a "proctology exam" to being interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators.
  • Prince was questioned by Mueller's team about his meeting in the Seychelles islands shortly before President Donald Trump's inauguration with Kirill Dmitriev, who was appointed by Russian leader Vladmir Putin to run a sovereign wealth fund.
  • A member of the delegation of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, who was meeting with Prince, suggested the former Navy SEAL speak with Dmitriev, according to Prince.
Erik Prince on his business endeavors after selling Blackwater
Erik Prince on his business endeavors after selling Blackwater

Blackwater founder Erik Prince said Monday that he would have preferred getting a "proctology exam" to being interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators about his meeting with a Russian investor linked to Vladimir Putin.

But the controversial security consultant told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that his previously reported sit-down with Mueller's team regarding that curious encounter in the Seychelles islands, which took place shortly before Donald Trump became president, was "much ado about nothing." Prince, whose sister Betsy DeVos is Trump's Education secretary, is a supporter of the president.

"I answered their questions, and they haven't talked to me since," said Prince, a former Navy SEAL.

Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, was reportedly looking into whether Prince's meeting with Putin pal Kirill Dmitriev was part of an effort to establish a secret line of communication between the Kremlin and the incoming Trump administration.

Prince, who formerly was an informal advisor to Trump, has said that his encounter with Dmitriev was "incidental," unplanned, brief and did not involve discussions of setting up a back channel.

"I went to see an old friend, leadership in the UAE [United Arab Emirates] after the election, and there was a Russian there," Prince told CNBC when asked why Mueller was interested in him. "So I had no contact with him before, no contact after."

Prince said Mueller's team asked him, "What I was doing there. And I explained and that was it."

Asked if there was anything he gleaned from his contact with the special counsel's office, Prince said: "Look, anytime you sit down for an interview like that it's — I think you probably would rather go to a proctology exam."

A secret meeting

The Washington Post reported in April 2017 that the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting that Prince had met with Dmitriev on the island group in the Indian Ocean in January 2017, nine days before Trump was sworn in as president.

The Post, citing U.S., European and Arab officials, said that Prince's meeting with Dmitriev was "part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Trump."

Prince told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in November 2017 that he was invited to the Seychelles by representatives of Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, for a meeting at a luxury hotel that ended up being about "the problems of terrorism in the area," and "the price of bauxite," a type of rock used to make aluminum.

"I didn't fly there to meet any Russian guy," Prince told the committee.

But toward the end of the meeting, Prince said, a member of bin Zayed's delegation, possibly one of the prince's brothers, suggested he also meet Dmitriev, who was at the hotel bar.

"We talked about ... trade matters and how the United States and Russia should be working together to defeat Islamic terrorism," Prince told the committee.

However, ABC News reported last April that Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who has been given immunity by Mueller, has told the special counsel's team that he arranged the meeting between Prince and Dmitriev. ABC also has reported that Mueller has obtained Prince's phones and computer as part of his inquiry into the Seychelles meeting.

Beyond Blackwater and into China

Prince sold Blackwater in 2010 after a string of controversies involving its security work in Iraq. The company is now known as Academi.

Prince now is executive director and deputy chairman of Frontier Services Group, a security, logistics and insurance services company that is backed by Citic, an investment fund owned by the government of China.

Prince appeared on CNBC to discuss his new effort to raise up to $500 million for a new fund to develop deposits of cobalt and other minerals used to make electric car batteries. Those minerals are often found in unstable parts of the world, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

When asked whether he had spoken to Trump about his mineral initiative, Prince said, "I haven't seen the president since before he was inaugurated."

Yet, when asked about America's rocky relationship with China, Prince said, "I know they're looking for ways to work with the United States."

"I know they would like the United States not to abandon Afghanistan, because they're very concerned about that becoming a major terrorist sanctuary again," Prince said. "And so hopefully we'll get the president to consider a proper alternative to the very conventional military approach where we've been wasting $62 billion per year as a country the past few years."

When Trump took office in early 2017, Prince had proposed privatizing the war effort in Afghanistan, which would involve contractors such as Prince conducting military actions. The Trump administration rejected that idea.

But Prince in recent months has revived that pitch by directly marketing it to influential Afghans.

However, in October, Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, said: "Foreign mercenaries will never be allowed in this country."

Correction: Mohammed bin Zayed is crown prince of Abu Dhabi. An earlier version misstated the position.