What we know about the Seychelles meeting on Mueller's radar

Seychelles meeting
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.

Rice unmasked senior Trump aides over UAE meeting

Susan Rice at the White House in 2016. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Obama national security advisor Susan Rice told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she unmasked Trump officials in an attempt to discern why they had met with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates when he paid an unannounced visit to New York last December, per CNN.

  • Her reasoning: The UAE's crown prince didn't tell the Obama administration he'd be visiting the United States — common protocol for such a visit — so Rice unmasked the Trump officials involved, whom CNN reported were Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon.
  • The meeting topic: Two sources told CNN that the New York meeting topics included Iran, Yemen, and the peace process in the Middle East.
  • What's at issue: Just weeks later, the crown prince was reported to have arranged a meeting between Erik Prince, the founder of private security firm Blackwater, the brother of Betsy DeVos, and a Russian official in the Seychelles to convince Russia to pull back from Iran.