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Erik Prince, former chairman of the Prince Group, LLC and Blackwater USA, testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill

Erik Prince, former chairman of the Prince Group, LLC and Blackwater USA, testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Black Prince

On September 16, 2007, Blackwater guards protecting a U.S. convoy killed 17 unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.

Christopher Brauchli

"(T)he Senate is much given to admiring in its members a superiority less obvious or quite invisible to outsiders. . ." —Henry Brooks Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

It’s nice to have him back from Abu Dhabi, the country to which he moved in 2010. He moved there, according to one of his colleagues, because, he “Needed a break from America.” Some of you may be wondering why he needed a break. It all had to do with the bad publicity his company, Blackwater Worldwide, was receiving as a result of activities the company and its employees were engaged in while working in Iraq.

Erik Prince founded Blackwater in 1997. It was a security firm that helped guard government facilities and U.S. personnel in assorted venues overseas, including Iraq. It did not have an unblemished record. In fact, a congressional report found that Blackwater personnel were involved in almost 200 shootings in Iraq between 2005 and 2007. The one with the longest lasting impact (other than on the families who were shot by Blackwater employees), occurred on September 16, 2007. In that shooting, Blackwater guards protecting a U.S. convoy killed 17 unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. As a consequence, four of the Blackwater employees were criminally charged in the United States and, in 2014, convicted in federal court for their role in the massacre. (In October 2017, sentences imposed on three of the men were thrown out by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and remanded to the trial court for resentencing. The conviction of the fourth defendant was thrown out and a new trial ordered.) In late December 2010, Erik sold the company, then known as Xe Services LLC.

Notwithstanding its sale, Blackwater’s travails continued to follow Erik. They were not limited to the 200 shootings that took place during Blackwater’s tenure in Iraq. In 2010 Xe Services LLC, settled State Department allegations of hundreds of export and other violations committed by Blackwater, and paid fines of $42 million. The offenses with which it was charged included “illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in South Sudan, and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers.” Those transgressions all occurred while Erik was running the company. Erik was reportedly unhappy with the bad publicity his company had received as a result of Blackwater’s activities. And that is why, in September 2010, he moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, while retaining his residence in Middleburg, Virginia.

Although he moved to Abu Dhabi, Erik has remained actively, if not publicly, involved in politics. During the last election he reportedly became became a close advisor to @thereal Donald Trump. In January, following the election of @the real Donald Trump, Erik participated in a meeting in the Seychelles that had been arranged by the United Arab Emirates. According to a report in the Washington Post, Erik had become an unofficial advisor to the incoming Trump administration, and the meeting in the Seychelles was an effort to establish a back-channel communication link between Moscow and the Trump administration. When asked about the Post report, Erik said the meeting with the Russians was a meeting with “some kind of fund manager we’ve done business with.” Whatever.

In early October 2017, the peripatetic Erik, accompanied by his family, made a visit to Wyoming. Tired of being a resident of only Abu Dhabi and Virginia, he went to Wyoming in order to explore the possibility of establishing residency there so that he could run for the U.S. Senate in that state. (Erik has already said he will not run from his home state of Michigan, but might favor Wyoming with a candidacy even though it already has a Republican senator.)

In order to run for the United States Senate from Wyoming, the only requirement, under Wyoming’s Ballot Access Laws, is that the person running be a registered elector in the state. To become a registered elector in Wyoming you must be a resident of the state. Mr. Prince already owns a house in Wyoming, so he can simply register to vote and will then be qualified to run for the U.S. Senate.

In explaining why he would consider running in Wyoming he said: “I identify with Wyoming. I love the state of Wyoming. I love the people. It’s a fantastic state-people that live in rugged conditions and who make their living doing things in the outdoors. I can relate to ranchers and roughnecks and professional game guides and farmers and homemakers.” That pretty well includes everyone in the state and those are not the only people he relates to. He also relates to Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart News and more recently the White House, and more recently still, (again), Breitbart News. Mr. Bannon has encouraged him to run. His election would mean two Prince siblings are in federal government. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is the Secretary of Education. According to recent polls, she is the most unpopular member of @thereal Donald Trump’s cabinet.

The prospect of Erik in the United States Senate is exciting not only to Mr. Bannon. Erik’s election to the senate combined with his sister’s position in the cabinet, would prove you can’t get too much of a good thing.


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Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. For political commentary see his web page at humanraceandothersports.com.

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