Holy crap what a scoop. https://t.co/C6jc4UtqaL
— zeddy (@Zeddary) September 26, 2018
Per the Daily Beast:
Joint U.S.-Russian raids to kill top terrorists. Teamwork between an American government agency and a sanctioned Russian fund. Moscow pouring money into the Midwest.
These are just a few of the ideas the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund touched on during his meeting with former Blackwater head Erik Prince in the Seychelles, just weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to a memo exclusively reviewed by The Daily Beast.
The meeting between Prince, an influential Trump ally, and Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the sanctioned fund, took place on Jan. 11, 2017, at the Four Seasons Hotel in a bar overlooking the Indian Ocean. George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, was also present…
Since Prince’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Mueller’s team has received information that the meeting was a pre-organized effort to set up a backchannel between the Trump administration and the Kremlin, according to The Washington Post.
Still, the exact details of the conversation between Prince and Dmitriev in the Seychelles have remained murky. But a memo Dmitriev sent after the meeting—described here for the first time—sheds new light on the conversation and indicates it addressed some of the thorniest diplomatic challenges facing the United States and Russia…
My old friends from the Grand Rapids area treated the deVos-Prince oligarchy as second only to Michigan mosquitoes on the list of local pests that could be withstood but never completely avoided. Sam Tannenhaus’ Vanity Fair article helps explain why. ““I’m Tired of America Wasting Our Blood and Treasure”: The Strange Ascent of Betsy DeVos and Erik Prince”:
… In the solar system of elite Republican contributors, Richard DeVos Sr., who died [in early September] at age 92—one of the two founders of Amway, the direct-sale colossus—occupied an exalted place, and his offspring did too. Since the 1970s, members of the DeVos family had given as much as $200 million to the G.O.P. and been tireless promoters of the modern conservative movement—its ideas, its policies, and its crusades combining free-market economics, a push for privatization of many government functions, and Christian social values. While other far-right mega-donors may have become better known over the years (the Coorses and the Kochs, Sheldon Adelson and the Mercers), Michigan’s DeVos dynasty stands apart—for the duration, range, and depth of its influence.
Start with the think tanks, advocacy organizations, and colleges. In the Grand Rapids area alone there are three conservative academic bastions: Grand Valley State University; Calvin College, attended by several generations of DeVoses, including Rich’s daughter-in-law Betsy DeVos, 60, who is now Trump’s secretary of education; and Northwood University, her husband Dick’s alma mater. The DeVoses are also major backers of Hillsdale, the libertarian-plus-Christian liberal-arts college in southern Michigan. One celebrated alum: Betsy DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, 49, the swashbuckling military contractor who has come to the serious attention of investigators looking into the Trump team’s alleged dealings with Russia. Other recipients of DeVos largesse: the Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Justice, and the American Enterprise Institute—the list goes on…
The DeVoses’ preference for “values-oriented” candidates reflect the teachings of the Christian Reformed Church. A small breakaway denomination of its Dutch forerunner, it has some 300,000 adherents in North America, many living in the same western-Michigan towns where their immigrant ancestors settled in the 1840s to pursue a faith that combines Calvinist devotion to the work ethic, prayer, a dedication to family and community—and philanthropy. The DeVoses take this seriously. Quite apart from their political donations, they have lavished millions on worthy charitable projects in and around town and far beyond. They have done all this, however, with a flamboyance unusual for Grand Rapids, stamping the family name, or Amway’s, on many of the city’s most visible surfaces.
And now Donald J. Trump, himself a stranger to charity but not to branding, was in DeVos country. When the Marriott meeting ended, and the doors opened, “the one lasting image for me,” one Grand Rapids journalist would later recall, “was seeing Rich DeVos wheeled out of the ballroom to the elevator.” Trump had gotten his audience with the patriarch.
Some five weeks later, on November 7, Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, came back yet again for the campaign’s last rally—at the DeVos Place Convention Center. Trump, it turned out, would squeak through, by fewer than 11,000 votes. While the bellwether suburbs outside Detroit certainly helped, Michiganders knew the critical votes that formed Trump’s base had come from the western part of the state. The point was clinched 12 days later, when Betsy DeVos, in a stylish gray jacket and practiced smile, stood with Trump at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. She had agreed to be Trump’s education chief. The announcement brought “Western Michigan royalty into the Trump fold,” observed The New York Times. (Indeed, when the Senate was split on confirming her, her pal Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.) In retrospect, it seemed an early token of surrenders to come, as G.O.P. leaders would make their bargain with the interloper Donald Trump.
That was one way of looking at it. Another was that Trump was a useful vehicle for advancing nationally the revolution the DeVoses had already enacted in Michigan. There was, for instance, Betsy DeVos’s campaign to undo the state’s public-education system and replace it with for-profit and charter schools that, as she had put it two decades earlier, shared her mission of “defending the Judeo-Christian values that made us what we are, but which are under attack from the liberal elite.” There was also the campaign she and her husband had waged to weaken Michigan’s unions. And there was the DeVos-family-funded gentrification of Grand Rapids, which had erased the haunting images of a once struggling Rust Belt city, though one beset by racial tensions.
Those are some of the lessons to be learned in western Michigan—West Michigan, as locals call it, as if to designate a separate state, or at least a state of mind. Other lessons can be found in the pulp-fiction career of Betsy DeVos’s younger brother, Erik Prince, the former navy SEAL who started Blackwater—the mammoth security company, some of whose “civilian soldiers” had gone rogue in Iraq. Prince recently turned over his computer and phones to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which has no doubt looked closely at his possible involvement in helping establish back-channel communications with Russia for the Trump administration. (Prince denies any wrongdoing.)
Behind all this is the story of a family dynasty that has been a driving force on the far right—the Michigan Medicis of Donald Trump’s America.
When people in West Michigan speak of the DeVoses, they mean not one great family but two, joined as the great European noble houses once were—Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Hanover and Windsor. The story actually begins 30 miles west of Grand Rapids, in Holland, a town of some 34,000 on Lake Macatawa that is as reliable a Republican stronghold as any in America. The last time the county voted Democratic in a presidential election? In 1864—against Abraham Lincoln…