Apr 3, 2017

Washington Post: Blackwater founder held secret meeting to forge Trump/Putin back channel


The founder of Blackwater and an associate of Vladimir Putin held a secret meeting in part to establish a "back-channel line of communication" between Donald Trump and the Russian president, according to the Washington Post.

The time and place: January 11 (9 days before the inauguration) on Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

The participants: Erik Prince, the founder of the private military company Blackwater (and brother of Education Secretary Betsy Devos) and an "unnamed Russian close to Vladimir Putin." Arranged by the UAE.

The goal: Per the Post, "to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria," which would require US concessions.

Where we stand: The FBI is investigating the meeting as part of the wider Russia probe. Sean Spicer said, "we are not aware of any meetings and Erik Prince had no role in the transition." A spox for Price said it was a "complete fabrication."

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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 are in correction, down over 10% from recent record-highs, amid a global market rout. It's the S&P 500's quickest decline into correction territory in the index's history, per Deutsche Bank.

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.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health

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.