Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

From left: Vladimir Putin, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Kirill Dmitriev and Erik Prince. Photos: Alexei Nikolsky / Getty Images; Franco Origlia / Getty Images; and Wikimedia Commons.

Last night, WashPost reported that a witness informed Robert Mueller that a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles, which took place just days before President Trump's inauguration, was an attempt to set up a back channel between the White House and the Kremlin.

Why it matters: In the grand scheme of Mueller's sweeping investigation — which has caught 19 individuals and three companies in its web of indictments and guilty pleas thus far — a single meeting between a Russian emissary and an American businessman with no formal ties to the Trump transition team may seem relatively benign. But with reports that Mueller may be targeting the influence of foreign cash, the Seychelles meeting takes on a new significance.

The players
  • Erik Prince is a former Navy SEAL who founded Blackwater (now Academi), a private military contractor prosecuted for its conduct during the Iraq War. He is a Trump donor and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and he testified that he twice visited Trump Tower during the transition to meet with Steve Bannon — though he had no official position on the Trump team.
  • George Nader is a Lebanese-American businessman who once worked as a consultant for Blackwater and now advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MbZ), the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, per the NYT. A Bannon associate and once-frequent visitor to the White House, Nader began cooperating with Mueller in January 2018.
  • Kirill Dmitriev is the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the country's $10 billion sovereign wealth fund that specializes in direct foreign investments. The fund was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2015 in retaliation for Russia's annexation of Crimea. Dmitriev is a close associate of Vladimir Putin and was believed to have been representing the Russian president during his meeting with Prince and Nader.
What they're saying
  • Prince testified that he traveled to the Seychelles in January 2017 to meet with his Emirati business partners, who later introduced him to Dmitriev. During a 30-minute meeting, he stated the two men discussed "topics ranging from oil and commodity prices to how much [Dmitriev's] country wished for resumption of normal trade relations with the USA." Prince denies having acted on behalf of the Trump administration or having any knowledge that Dmitriev was representing Putin.
  • WashPost reported in April 2017 that the Seychelles meeting was first brokered by the UAE after an undisclosed discussion between MbZ, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon at Trump Tower in December 2016. The Post revealed yesterday that Nader was also present at Trump Tower.
  • U.S., European and Arab officials have said the Seychelles meeting was an effort to establish a back channel of communication to the Kremlin, and that Prince presented himself as an unofficial surrogate for the president-elect, according to WashPost's reporting.
Outside takes on the meeting
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.): "During his Russia investigation interview, Mr. Prince was asked directly by me and [Rep. Adam] Schiff [(D-Calif.)] who he met with while he was in the Seychelles. He never gave the name George Nader. If he met with George Nader, he lied under oath."
  • The Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand: "Worth remembering that Prince is an MbZ associate, has known Nader for over a decade, and lives in the UAE. He didn’t *have* to fly to Seychelles in order to meet with them. Unless, of course, there was another reason. "
  • Seth Abramson: "Remember: Trump rewarded Prince for his pre-election service by making Prince's sister (DeVos) the most unqualified Secretary of Education in modern U.S. history. Remember: days after the Seychelles meeting, Trump planned to implement a unilateral dropping of Russia sanctions."
  • Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett: "Nader’s account is considered key evidence [to Mueller] — but not the only evidence — about what transpired in Seychelles, according to people familiar with the matter."



Go deeper

Big European soccer teams announce breakaway league

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) after striking the ball during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Liverpool F.C. and Real Madrid at Anfield in Liverpool, England, last Wednesday. Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

12 of world soccer's biggest and richest clubs announced Sunday they've formed a breakaway European "Super League" — with clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona Real Madrid, Juventus and A.C. Milan among those to sign up.

Why it matters: Britain and Italy's prime ministers are among those to express concern at the move — which marks a massive overhaul of the sport's structure and finances, and it effectively ends the decades-old UEFA Champions League's run as the top tournament for European soccer.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats settling on 25% corporate tax rate

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The universe of Democratic senators concerned about raising the corporate tax rate to 28% is broader than Sen. Joe Manchin, and the rate will likely land at 25%, parties close to the discussion tell Axios.

Why it matters: While increasing the rate from 21% to 25% would raise about $600 billion over 15 years, it would leave President Biden well short of paying for his proposed $2.25 trillion, eight-year infrastructure package.

GOP pivot: Big business to small dollars

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republican leaders turned to grassroots supporters and raked in sizable donations after corporations cut them off post-Jan. 6.

Why it matters: If those companies hoped to push the GOP toward the center, they may have done just the opposite by turning Republican lawmakers toward their most committed — and ideologically driven — supporters.