Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
 November 30 at 9:06 PM
Erik Prince, a supporter of the Trump presidential campaign and founder of the security firm Blackwater, confirmed to House investigators Thursday that he met with a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin while in the Seychelles earlier this year, according to multiple people familiar with the interview.

Under questioning, Prince told members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that he had met Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, during a secret Jan. 11 meeting in the Seychelles brokered by the United Arab Emirates as part of an apparent attempt to set up backchannel communications between then-President-elect Donald Trump and Moscow.

Dmitriev was first identified as Prince’s Russian contact in the Seychelles by the Intercept earlier this week.

The admission to investigators that he met with Dmitriev is a turnaround for Prince, who initially refused through a spokesman to identify the Russian with whom he had met, and later said he couldn’t remember his name.

He denied to House investigators that he was representing the Trump transition team during the Seychelles meeting, according to people who participated in the interview. They said Prince insisted the meeting took place over a beer and lasted less than an hour.

The full transcript of Prince’s interview is expected to be released within three days, according to committee leaders.

Prince stopped to speak with reporters on his way out of the interview Thursday, saying that he was merely a “donor” and an “interested voter” when it came to the Trump campaign. He also complained that the Intelligence Committee’s interview had been a “meaningless fishing expedition.”

“Congressman Schiff should apologize for wasting all of our time,” Prince said as he departed the interview, referring to the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff.

Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.), a committee member helping Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) run its Russia probe, cautioned against taking Prince’s admission that he met with a Russian as a sign he was meeting Russians over matters related to the Kremlin or anything political. Rooney stressed that Prince’s international business interests gave him plenty of other reasons to meet with Russians and Emiratis. Since selling Blackwater, Prince has continued to work in the private paramilitary contracting business, with deals across the Middle East and Asia.