Posts tagged with "The Daily Beast"

Federal judge ponders review of Mueller report redactions

April 19, 2019

The federal judge who reviews documents for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dissemination is asking to scrutinize the redacted version of the Mueller Report, in order to ensure that all deletions have been made for legal purposes—and not with the intent of withholding information from the Congress or the American public.

As reported by The Daily Beast, Federal District Judge Reggie Walton expressed interest in reviewing the Mueller report redactions in order to expedite Freedom of Information Act requests for the highly anticipated report.

“Obviously there is a real concern as to whether there is full transparency,” Walton said at a Tuesday court hearing regarding a request from BuzzFeed to have the Justice Department release the report quickly under FOIA. “The attorney general has created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public to be concerned.”

If Walton is successful, the review would be a win for those suing for the report’s release because it would bring in a judge to look at the reasoning over redactions. It is unclear whether the version of the report made public Thursday will be identical to what the department releases under FOIA.

“That’s something we’ll have to work through and something I’ll have to think about,” Walton said.

Indeed, according to Politico, Justice Department attorney Courtney Enlow declined to say whether the version of the report made public Thursday will be identical to what the department releases under FOIA. Nor could she say whether she’d be prepared to commit to that during another hearing set for May 2 on the BuzzFeed case and a related suit.

“I can’t give you a timeline,” Enlow said.

However, the judge said Tuesday that he plans to “fast track” the issue of the report and what information in it must be disclosed, then deal with other records from Mueller’s probe.

Walton said he hopes any disputes will be limited because the Justice Department makes the bulk of the document public.

“I would hope that the government is as transparent as it can be,” the judge said.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Say what? Embassy staffers gripe Jared Kushner concealed the content of Saudi meetings

March 8, 2019

During meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and King Salman in Saudi Arabia on February 26, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner followed the same game plan used by his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, during the Helsinki Summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last July: What Americans don’t know can’t hurt you.

President Trump famously allowed no U.S. aides in the room when he talked to Putin, did not allow the translator to take notes, and would not release a transcript following the summit meeting.

 Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of  Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court in late February, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip, The Daily Beast reported, noting that his lack of transparency is causing concern not only in the embassy, but also among members of Congress.

The Royal Court was handling the entire schedule,” one congressional source told the news outlet; noting that the U.S. Embassy was not involved.

Lawmakers told the news outlet they were concerned that the embassy in Riyadh did not have knowledge of what was discussed between Kushner, MBS and King Salman—in light of the increasingly fragile relationship between the two countries following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Lawmakers are particularly interested in understanding the back and forth between the United States and Saudi Arabia regarding a potential nuclear deal, The Daily beast reported. Indeed, the website reported last week that the Trump administration is still actively working to make a deal to send U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and that American energy businesses are still hoping to cash in on Riyadh’s push for energy diversification.

The only facts released to date on Kushner’s travels are that he stopped in Saudi Arabia and, while there, he met with the royal family to discuss U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and economic investment in the region, according to the White House.

The State Department did have a senior official in attendance, but he was not part of the State Department team in Saudi. He is a senior member of the department focused on Iran, according to a source with direct knowledge of the official’s presence in Riyadh, The Daily Beast said.

When a member of the administration travels to another country, the embassy often helps coordinate the trip and provides some kind of security. This time, though, the Saudi government provided security for Kushner and his entourage, sources told The Daily Beast And the embassy was largely left in the dark on the details of Kushner’s schedule and his conversations with Saudi officials, according to two individuals with knowledge of the trip to the country.

The State Department referred The Daily Beast to the White House for comment. “This reporting is not true and the sources are misinformed,” a senior administration official told the news outlet, adding that the embassy in Riyadh was involved in Kushner’s visit and meetings.

Research contact: Erin.Banco@thedailybeast.com

Trump’s DHS lays waste to task forces shielding elections from foreign meddling

February 15, 2019

At just the time when the United States should be defending the sanctity of its electoral process, the Trump administration is cutting back on efforts to fight foreign interference at ballot boxes nationwide, The Daily Beast reported on February 13.

Indeed, two teams of federal officials assembled to fight encroachment are polling places by foreign powers are being dramatically downsized, three current and former Department of Homeland Security officials told the daily news outlet exclusively And now, those sources say they fear the department won’t prepare adequately for election threats in 2020.

“The clear assessment from the intelligence community is that 2020 is going to be the perfect storm,” said a DHS official familiar with the teams. “We know Russia is going to be engaged. Other state actors have seen the success of Russia and realize the value of disinformation operations. So it’s very curious why the task forces were demoted in the bureaucracy and the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election.”

The task forces, part of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), were assembled in response to Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election. One focuses in part on securing election infrastructure and the other focuses on foreign influence efforts, including social media disinformation campaigns.

According to The Daily Beast’s report this week, one of the task forces is now half the size it was a few months ago—and there is no indication that DHS senior political leadership will staff it up or sustain it. Instead, there are concerns it will completely wither away. The other task force also shrank significantly shortly after the midterms, according to the Beast’s sources, and before its members produced a thorough assessment of what happened during the 2018 elections.

“Our key allies are wondering why the United States is not more coordinated and not more proactive in dealing with this,” said one of the DHS officials. “They don’t understand why the U.S. is not getting its act together.”

A DHS spokesperson confirmed that some people have been taken off the task forces and moved to other roles in the department. The spokesperson added that the department is bringing on new people to do election security work.

“As recently as this morning, Director [Christopher] Krebs [of CISA] confirmed election security remains a priority for [the agency] in his testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security—laying out the agency’s plan to work with state and local election officials on broader engagement, better defining risk to election systems, and understanding the resources to manage that risk,” Sara Sendek, the DHS spokesperson, told the Daily Beast.

 “In the run up to the 2018 elections, DHS staffed the newly created [the] Elections Task Force and Countering Foreign Influence Task Force by temporarily assigning personnel from across the department. The work of these task forces continues to this day and is being institutionalized as a permanent effort. While some of the personnel who were brought on to serve on these task forces in temporary assignments have returned to their regular roles, we are also currently hiring new employees into permanent election positions to build out our team and support our efforts for 2020 and beyond,” Sendek assured the news outlet.

However,one lawmaker with knowledge of the formation of CISA said the task forces were never intended to be permanent.

“In some sense it’s not surprising that these changes are happening,” he said. “There was nothing set in stone that said these teams were going to stay in formation. At least that was my understanding.”

Others said they found the change concerning.

“The Trump administration intelligence chiefs in their worldwide threat assessment clearly stated that the use of influence operations from countries like Russia, China and Iran poses a significant threat to the country,” said John Cohen, the former deputy undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at DHS. “If these reports are true, it’s highly disturbing that the department and the administration are not more focused on dealing with that threat.”

“It won’t be 2016 all over again—the threat is changing,” said a former DHS official. “A thinly staffed task force working on that is not going to be equipped to keep up with the adversary.”

The changes appear to reflect the White House’s lack of interest in beefing up election security, Paul Rosenzweig, formerly deputy assistant secretary for Policy at DHS, told the news outlet.

“If the president isn’t interested and there is no strategy, it’s no surprise that DHS is not wasting its time,” said Rosenzweig, now a senior fellow at the R Street Institute. “The failure of the White House to take this seriously is perhaps its single most significant dereliction of duty.”

Research contact: ERIN.BANCO@THEDAILYBEAST.COM

Democratic opposition research already is dogging Howard Schultz

February 4, 2019

Since Howard Schultz announced his presidential aspirations on 60 Minutes in late January, Democrats have gone into panic mode—fearing that the former Starbucks CEO will filch votes from their column in the 2020 election.

According to a February 1 report by The Daily Beast, American Bridge, a progressive super PAC that focuses on opposition research, already has compiled its first “oppo” hit against Schultz, who would run as an Independent candidate.

Indeed, the news outlet says, the PAC pitched its reporters on a story about Schultz’s charitable foundation—suggesting that “he uses it to minimize his personal tax bill even as the foundation spends lavishly on executive compensation and overhead.”

The group’s oppo pitch against Schultz piggybacks off of reporting by Fox Business that found Schultz gave less than one percent of his fortune to Schultz Family Foundation during the last fiscal year for which its tax filings are available.

Bridge dug into the foundation’s expenditures and found that it “used its tax-free funding to spend lavishly while Howard Schultz receives tax deductions,” according to a research document the group shared with The Daily Beast. It focused on $400,000 in furniture expenses during fiscal year 2016, and its executive director’s $21,000-per-month salary.

The foundation’s latest annual financial filing discloses that Schultz and his wife, Sherri Kersch Schultz, donated $18 million in the year ending June 2017. The foundation gave out about $7.6 million in grants in that time, and spent just under $2.2 million on operating and administrative expenses, including compensation.

“The country is sick and tired of egomaniacs who think tax policy should be made by and for the rich. Apparently, Howard Schultz didn’t get that memo,” Bridge spokesperson Andrew Bates said in an emailed statement to the news outlet. “The only person who would benefit from a Schultz candidacy is Donald Trump.”

What’s more, The Daily Beast notes, Bridge isn’t the only prominent Democratic super PAC eyeing an offensive against Schultz. Priorities USA Action, a group founded by Bill Burton, one of Schultz’s top consultants, has also threatened to go after him if he declares a presidential candidacy.

We would consider him a target,” the group’s Executive Director Patrick McHugh said last week. “We would do everything we can to ensure that his candidacy is unsuccessful.”

Schultz has said that he will take a few months before deciding whether or not to formally enter the race. But already he’s taken steps that have given off the impression that this is more than just a vanity project—and could constitute a political threat to a Democratic candidate.

Research contact: Lachlan.Markay@thedailybeast.com

America’s dirty secret: Private migrant detention has become big business

December 28, 2018

An exclusive report, posted by The Daily Beast on December 27, has found that, in 2018 alone, for-profit private prisons made nearly $1 billion on a new U.S. “industry”: the detention of migrants.

Underwritten by taxpayers and beset by problems, the third-party-operated U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities are known for minimal oversight and what immigration advocates say uncomfortably resembles slave labor: Prisoners who choose to work rather than sit in overcrowded dormitories are paid $3 a day to work in the kitchen and as little as $1 a day to sweep floors.

Yesica, a 23-year-old who fled her native El Salvador to escape gang persecution and has spent the last two years locked up in the Joe Corley Detention Facility in southeast Texas, told the Daily Beast with the help of a translator, “This is a really terrible place. It’s inhumane. It’s like a torture chamber….I don’t breathe fresh air; haven’t been outside since I’ve been in here.”

Being in the U.S. illegally is a misdemeanor offense, and immigration detention is technically a civil matter; not a criminal process. But the reality looks much different. The Daily Beast reported that as of October 20, ICE was detaining an average of 44,631 people every day—an all-time high. Now, ICE has told the online news outlet that its latest detention numbers are even higher: 44,892 people as of December 8. Its budget request for the current fiscal year anticipates detaining 52,000 people daily.

Yesica’s employer and jailer, the private prisons giant GEO Group, expects its earnings to grow to $2.3 billion this year, The Daily Beast notes, reporting that—like other private prison companies—GEO made large donations to President Donald Trump’s campaign and inauguration.

In 2004, GEO Group spent $120,000 on federal lobbying. By 2016, it was spending $1.2 million, The Daily Beast reports. Fellow private prisons giant CoreCivic spent nearly $10 million between 2008 and 2014 just to lobby the House Appropriations subcommittee that controls immigration-detention funding. Together, according to the Migration Policy Institute, the two corporations dished out a combined half-million dollars to Trump’s inauguration committee.

In essence, immigration advocates say, the detention corporations pay the president and his congressional allies.

What’s more, Mary Small of the Detention Watch Network told The Daily Beast, the public still lacks “incredibly basic information about immigration detention and how private prison companies are profiting from it.”

She added, “Even though billions of taxpayer dollars are being obligated to private prison companies, the contracts between them and the federal government aren’t publicly available, so we don’t know how much these companies are being paid, how many people they’re holding, or how long their contracts last. This culture of secrecy—bolstered by revolving door politics and political contributions—[has] paved the way for a rapid and reckless expansion of the detention system.”

The differences between for-profit immigration prisons and public immigration prisons are substantial, according to recent research by The American Immigration Council based on data from fiscal year 2015. One of the major findings: For-profit prisons “consistently and substantially” hold immigrants longer than public ones—about 87 days on average for people ultimately granted relief, versus 33.3 days in public prisons.

Fifteen of the 179 detainees who died in ICE custody between October 2003 and February 2018 were held at a single private immigration detention center, run by CoreCivic in Arizona, according to the Migration Policy Institute. At another privately run immigration detention jail, GEO Group’s Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California, there were seven suicide attempts between December 2016 and October 2017 (and at least one success), The Daily Beast reports.

GEO Group did not respond to requests for comment.

Research contact: spencer.ackerman@thedailybeast.com

Daily Beast: NBC admonished Ronan Farrow to stop reporting on Harvey Weinstein

September 4, 2018

Even the hottest and most widely sourced stories can be blocked by news outlets that capitulate to the pressures of politics and profitability. That’s exactly what happened at NBC News, an exclusive report by The Daily Beast alleges, when Ronan Farrow tried to air a story on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment of, and assaults on, female film industry associates in August 2017.

Indeed, even after Farrow left the network, NBC News General Counsel Susan Weiner made a series of calls to the writer and “threatened to smear him,” if he continued to delve into whispers about the Hollywood mogul, The Daily Beast claims in its August 30 scoop.

Farrow went on to publish his story in The New Yorker, causing nationwide reverberations that resulted in the #MeToo movement.

Since then, Farrow has been awarded a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a series of articles that revealed allegations of sexual harassment and assault—and questions have lingered about why the network gave up on the story.

Now, the supervising producer who worked beside him at NBC has quit the network, too, and is telling his own full story. Rich McHugh tendered his resignation on Friday, August 17—a year to the day after the Weinstein story left with Farrow.

A spokesperson for NBC News, speaking on the condition of anonymity, vigorously denied all allegations that Farrow was muzzled and intimidated by the network. “Absolutely false,” the spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “There’s no truth to that all. There is no chance … that Susan Weiner would tell Ronan Farrow what he could or could not report on.

“The sole point of the Susan Weiner’s conversation with Farrow, roughly a month after he had left NBC,” the spokesperson added, “ was to make sure he wasn’t still telling sources that he was working on the story for NBC, since he had moved on to The New Yorker.

How it all started

In February 2015, Farrow lost his daytime show on MSNBC and began working with NBC News’s investigative unit. In November 2016, Farrow and Rich McHugh decided they wanted to do a story about Hollywood’s “casting couch”— the longtime practice of producers and other powerful men exchanging sex with women for film roles, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

They presented the idea to NBC News President Noah Oppenheim, who suggested that the team look into a October 2016 tweet by actress Rose McGowan, who said she had been raped by a Hollywood executive, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Over the next several months, Farrow began collecting evidence that suggested Weinstein had a pattern of inappropriate behavior toward women.  Weinstein pushed back, denying all allegations of non-consensual sex.

An order to stand down

In an interview with The New York Times published on August 30, McHugh accused “the very highest levels of NBC” of later stopping the reporting.

The same network spokesperson says that claim is inaccurate, telling The Daily Beast, “There was not one single victim or witness to misconduct by Harvey Weinstein who was willing to go on the record. Not one.”

By February, according to the sources, Farrow had secured an on-the-record interview with McGowan in which the actress said she had been sexually harassed by a powerful producer, though she did not name Weinstein. (McGowan subsequently named Weinstein during the NBC investigation, according to a source with knowledge of the story, but reportedly pulled her interview after being legally threatened by Weinstein, who had reached a $100,000 settlement with her in 1997 after she accused him of sexual assault.)

Farrow and McHugh also had obtained a bombshell audio recording from an NYPD sting in which Weinstein admitted to groping Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in 2015. (The Battilana audio was subsequently published by The New Yorker.)

However, during a meeting in summer 2017, Oppenheim mentioned to Farrow that Weinstein had raised objections to Farrow’s reporting—even though Farrow had not yet asked Weinstein to comment on the allegations, according to individuals briefed on the meeting.

“Externally, I had Weinstein associates calling me repeatedly,” McHugh told the Times. “I knew that Weinstein was calling NBC executives directly. One time it even happened when we were in the room.”

HuffPost reported last year that Oppenheim had gone so far as to relay concerns from Weinstein’s lawyers that Farrow could not report the story because the producer had worked with his estranged father, director Woody Allen.

“No, absolutely not, and Noah Oppenheim never had a conversation with Harvey Weinstein about the content of NBC News’ investigation,” the network spokesperson said.

By August 2017, Farrow was prepared to fly to California to interview a woman who was going to claim in silhouette on camera that Weinstein had raped her, according to the sources—however, network management said he “needed more” and would not allow Farrow to use an NBC News crew for the interview, a person familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast. Farrow went ahead with the interview anyway, paying for a camera crew out of his own pocket, according to sources.

“Three days before Ronan and I were going to head to L.A.,” McHugh told the Times, “I was ordered to stop, not to interview this woman. And to stand down on the story altogether.”

Dejected, Farrow approached longtime New Yorker media writer Ken Auletta, seeking advice about what to do. It was Auletta who suggested bringing the story to The New Yorker and called Editor in Chief David Remnick, who accepted the idea.

Immediately after Farrow published his bombshell at The New Yorker, top figures at NBC began pointing fingers at each other, two sources said.

While Oppenheim told staffers that he took responsibility for the decision to let the story go, he privately told at least one colleague that NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack and Senior Communications Vice President Mark Kornblau had made him a scapegoat.

The issue remains open. Questions about the story still are surfacing—and they are likely to cause more headaches in the coming months, The Daily Beast reports.

Earlier this year, publisher Little, Brown announced it was publishing a book by Farrow entitled Catch & Kill, in which he is expected to share his recollection of NBC’s decisions around the Weinstein story and report more broadly on the conspiracy of silence that protects powerful men.

More details on the story are available on The Daily Beast website.

Research contact: @maxwelltani

Enquiring minds want to know: Where’s the Trump coverage?

August 6, 2018

Shortly after the feds raided the offices and hotel room of President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen  on April 9, National Enquirer Publisher (and friend of the president) David Pecker made a calculated retreat, according to an August 2 report by The Daily Beast.

Since the start of his presidential campaign, Pecker’s tabloid had helped to engineer Trump’s political rise, by running stories (or not, in the case of Playboy model Karen McDougal) that would polish his image. However, although he reigned as a regular fixture on the cover of the Enquirer for several years, Trump hasn’t appeared on it since an issue dated early May. That high-profile shot was for a cover story on the various scandals swirling around … Cohen, The Daily Beast notes.

And in that same issue detailing Cohen’s dirty work—work in which the Enquireritself, played a key role—there was another story claiming that the Enquirer’slie detector examination” had absolved Trump of any Russia-related collusion.

Since then, The Daily Beast notes, “The tabloid’s approach to the saga has ranged from muted to silent. The most recent issue of the Enquirer, dated July 30, 2018, doesn’t feature a single item on Trump in the entire, 47-page edition—though the issue did have room for a story on how the late James Bond actor Roger Moore “SMELLED BAD!” due to ‘rampant flatulence.’”

According to multiple sources familiar with the situation, Pecker and the top brass of the supermarket scandal sheet made a conscious decision to pull back on their pro-Trump coverage, just as Pecker’s media empire found itself increasingly embroiled in Trump’s legal and public-relations woes.

A month after the Enquirer’s last Trump cover, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal authorities had subpoenaed Pecker and other executives at American Media, which publishes the tabloid. They sought records related to allegations that the company purchased the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story of an affair with Trump, then killed the story for Trump’s benefit, a practice known as “catch and kill.” Prosecutors are exploring whether such an agreement may have constituted an illegal in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign by AMI.

The Daily Beast contends that “the dialing-back of Trump content may have come with a cost.” The tabloid lost about 4,700 paid subscriptions from January through June, about 6% of its total at the beginning of the year.

An AMI spokesperson acknowledged the downturn in an emailed statement to The Daily Beast. “AMI is not immune to the challenges facing the publishing industry, which is why we have continued to diversify and grow our revenue with new channels and acquisitions,” the spokesperson wrote.

The rep also dismissed any implication of its lack of Trump covers or coverage of late, saying, “Any decisions about our covers are driven by proprietary data on what our readers are most interested in and what is most likely [to] perform well at the newsstand, period.”

Research contact: lachlan.markay@thedailybeast.com

Supreme Court limits travel from Muslim nations

June 27, 2018

In a win that is sure to please President Trump’s base of anti-immigration voters, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 on June 26 that the POTUS acted lawfully in imposing limits on travel from several predominantly Muslim nations, The New York Times reported.

The ban—which succeeded in the high court after two previous travel interdictions had failed—actually had been effective since December, as legal challenges from lower courts moved forward. It initially restricted travel for the purposes of work, study, or recreation from eight nations—six of them predominantly Muslim: Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, Venezuela, and North Korea. Chad was later removed from the list.

The state of Hawaii, as well as several individual plaintiffs and a Muslim group, had challenged the ban—saying it was tainted by religious animus and was not justified by national security concerns. Conversely, none of the plaintiffs had objected to an injunction on travel from North Korea or Venezuela.

Writing for the court in Trump v. Hawaii, Chief Justice Roberts “skillfully demolished the two arguments against the ban—that it was an excess of presidential authority, and that it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.” The Daily Beast reported, adding, “…The reasoning was the same: in a different context, perhaps the Court would look under the hood at what Trump is really doing here. But because this is supposedly about national security, it won’t.”

Quoting an earlier decision, he wrote “the upshot of our cases in this context is clear: ‘Any rule of constitutional law that would inhibit the flexibility” of the President “to respond to changing world conditions should be adopted only with the greatest caution,’ and our inquiry into matters of entry and national security is highly constrained.”

Among those in dissent was Justice Sonia Sotomayer, who wrote, ““Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments. Because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect, with profound regret, I dissent.”

Earlier efforts

It was just days after his 2017 inauguration that Trump signed off on his first travel ban—creating chaos at the nation’s airports and triggering a tidal wave of lawsuits and appeals. Trump’s executive order banned refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, and  placed an indefinite hold on Syrian refugees. It also blocked citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. However, that first ban, drafted in haste, was blocked by courts nationwide.

At that time, a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll found that 49% of American adults were either “strongly” or “somewhat” in agreement with Trump’s order, while 41% were “strongly” or “somewhat” in disagreement, and another 10% didn’t know. The responses were split almost entirely along party lines. Some 53% of Democrats said they “strongly disagreed” with Trump’s action, while 51% of Republicans said they “strongly agreed.”

Trump tried again in March 2017. His new executive order continued to impose a 90-day ban on travel, but it removed Iraq—a redaction requested by Defense Secretary James Mattis, who feared it would hamper the military coordination necessary to defeat the Islamic State, according to administration officials.

The SCOTUS allowed part of a second version of the ban to go into effect last June when the judges agreed to hear the Trump administration’s appeals arguments. At that time, the court said the ban could not be imposed on anyone who had “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” However, the case was dismissed when the ban expired in October.

Research contact: @adamliptak

Erik Prince has flipped for Mueller

June 20, 2018

While Americans continue to seesaw in their approval of the Russia probe generally—and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in particular—more of President Donald Trump’s aides and supporters continue to flip for the investigators. Erik Prince, founder of private military contractor Blackwater, told The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff on June 19 that he now is among the witnesses who have “cooperated” with the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference.

Prince, who reportedly met with a Russian wealth fund manager in the Seychelles during the transition to set up a back channel between the Trump administration and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, told Woodruff that he has “spoken voluntarily to Congress and I also cooperated with the special counsel.”

At first, Prince, who is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, had claimed that he merely took the trip as a vacation jaunt and encountered the Russian briefly and casually.

Now, The Daily Beast reports, Prince is all-in on the Trump-Putin connection. “As I’ve said before, if Franklin Roosevelt can work with Joseph Stalin to defeat German fascism, Nazi fascism, national socialist fascism, then certainly Donald Trump can work with Putin to defeat Islamic fascism,” he said.

What’s more, the Blackwater founder said, a relationship with North Korea will be beneficial. I don’t think we have to be provocative with NATO and I think it’s a good idea for the president to reach out diplomatically,” Prince divulged, adding, “ I mean, for heaven’s sakes, he’s sitting down and talking to Kim [Jong-un] of North Korea. Putin is a much more rational actor and I think it’s totally appropriate for the president to sit down and try to thaw the situation.”

” … All I will add,” Prince told Woodruff, “is that much of the reporting about me in the media is inaccurate, and I am confident that when the investigators have finished their work, we will be able to put these distractions to the side.”

Meanwhile, it is no surprise that a Politico/Morning Consult poll released on June 13 found that 53% of Republicans now say they view the lead Russian investigator in an unfavorable light.

Research contact: @woodruffbets