May 4, 2018

Blackwater's Erik Prince under scrutiny for China ties

Erik Prince. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Erik Prince — a former Navy SEAL who created the security firm Blackwater, which played a controversial role in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — is back in the spotlight for his new position as chairman of a Hong Kong-based company called Frontier Services Group, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: According to the Post, there's a concern that Prince, who is of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller and has ties to the Trump administration, is "advancing the strategic agenda of the United States' largest rival."

What they're saying, per the Post:

  • A former U.S. intelligence official said that within the intelligence community and the Pentagon, "there was discomfort to begin with because [Prince] was courting the Chinese government at the same time as he was courting the American government ... He is way out of bounds.”
  • A spokesman for FSG: "Erik Prince is a proud American who would never seek to undermine the national interests. FSG ... aims to support infrastructure projects internationally to serve its clients' needs ... and does not support a political agenda."
  • Lawyers at Washington law firm Steptoe & Johnson warned Prince in a 2015 memo that the U.S. employees of FSG "should exercise utmost caution not to provide military advice or training ... that could be construed as defense services," to avoid legal problems.

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Stocks fall 4% as sell-off worsens

A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Stocks fell more than 4% on Thursday, extending the market’s worst week since the financial crisis in 2008 following a spike in coronavirus cases around the world.

The big picture: All three indices closed in correction territory on Thursday, down over 10% from their recent record-highs amid a global market rout.

Coronavirus updates: California monitors 8,400 potential cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

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Watchdog opens probe into VA secretary over handling of sexual assault claim

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Fox Business Network’s "The Evening Edit" on Jan. 7. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

The Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal said Thursday he had opened an investigation into VA Secretary Robert Wilkie after lawmakers demanded an inquiry into his handling of a sexual misconduct report, the Washington Post reports.

Context: Wilkie allegedly "worked to discredit" the credibility of Democratic aide and veteran Andrea Goldstein after she reported last fall "that a man groped and propositioned her in the main lobby of the agency's D.C. Medical Center," a senior VA official told the Post.