Blackwater founder Erik Prince had plans to create a $10 billion private army in Ukraine, Time reports

Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • Erik Prince pitched plans in 2020 for a private army staffed by former Ukrainian combat veterans.
  • Several of Prince’s ventures included in his $10 billion proposal required approval from the Ukrainian government.
  • “Had it been another four years of Trump, Erik would probably be closing the deal,” a former Ukrainian advisor, told Time.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2020, Blackwater founder Erik Prince pitched plans to hire Ukrainian combat veterans and buy into the country’s military-industrial complex in order to create a $10 billion private army, according to a new Time investigation.

The former Navy SEAL created a “roadmap” detailing his goals to acquire factories in Ukraine that make engines for fighter jets and helicopters as well as build munitions factories in the country and combine Ukraine’s top aerospace and aviation firms in order to compete with Boeing and Airbus, the outlet reported.

Prince’s full plan, obtained by Time, dates back to June 2020 and is one of his most ambitious ventures in a long career of pursuing and creating controversial defense infrastructure, according to the magazine. Documents obtained by the outlet reveal Prince’s coveted venture would have given him a pivotal role in Ukraine’s military industry amid it’s continuous conflict with neighboring Russia.

Several of the proposals required approval from the Ukrainian government, including one that would create a new private military company staffed by veterans of the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to the magazine.

But the businessman’s Ukraine-centric efforts stalled after former President Donald Trump left office, as the Ukrainian government began stimulating more competition for Prince’s desired assets.

“Had it been another four years of Trump, Erik would probably be closing the deal,” Igor Novikov, a former top adviser to Ukraine’s president, told the magazine.

Even before Trump’s departure, Ukrainian officials reportedly had reservations about working with Prince because of his connection to people tied to Russia. Two other Prince associates are now under investigation in New York. The inquiry is said to be focused on whether the men were involved in a possible Russian plot to affect the 2020 presidential election, according to The New York Times.

“We had to wonder: Is this the best sort of partnership we can get from the Americans? This group of shady characters working for a close ally of Trump?” Novikov told TIME. “It felt like the worst America had to offer.”

The former aide said concerns among Ukrainians heightened even more so after one of Prince’s associates drafted a “participation offer” that Novikov believed was a bribe.

Prince has dealt with controversy in the past. After his time as a Navy SEAL, he founded private military company Blackwater, which came under intense scrutiny in 2007 after company employees opened fire on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, killing 17 in what became known as the Nisour Square Massacre. Prince, who was not on the ground during the incident, resisted claims that Blackwater guards were responsible. A US court found four employees guilty of manslaughter or first-degree murder in 2014.

Prince is also the brother of Betsy DeVos, former Secretary of Education under Trump.

Prince did not respond to TIME’s numerous requests for comment, the outlet said.

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Undercover GOP operatives trained by former spies infiltrated liberal groups to try and compromise them from the inside, report says

erik prince
Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • GOP operatives trained by ex-spies embedded themselves in Democratic operations across the West, NYT reported.
  • The operation was spearheaded by a hardline Trump ally and a former British spy.
  • It highlights the GOP’s push to dominate national politics by taking over at the state and local level.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An ultrawealthy Republican donor and a former British spy spearheaded an effort to train GOP operatives to go undercover and infiltrate liberal organizations, The New York Times reported Friday.

The donor, Erik Prince, is a hardline Trump supporter who founded the private military contractor Blackwater, now known as Academi. Prince worked with a former British spy, Richard Seddon, on a conservative operation to “infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns and the offices of Democratic as well as moderate Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle,” The Times reported, citing extensive interviews and documents.

The outlet reported that Prince first recruited Seddon at the beginning of the Trump administration and asked him to hire ex-spies to train Republican operatives in the art of political sabotage on his Wyoming ranch, adding a new layer to the term “ratf—ing.”

Two of the undercover operatives were Beau Maier and Sofia LaRocca. They embedded themselves in the Democratic operation in Wyoming, and targeted both progressives and moderate Republicans they believed were a threat to the Trump administration. According to The Times, Maier and LaRocca were based in Wyoming but ingratiated themselves in Democratic politics in Arizona and Colorado as well. Neither Maier nor LaRocca responded to the NYT’s requests for comment.

And in retrospect, many of the personal details LaRocca offered to her new friends in Wyoming politics didn’t add up: she claimed that she had to live in Colorado and not Wyoming because of her dog, and that she went under a fake name because of a stalker but changed it back because the police told her the stalker had “reformed.”

The outlet reported that Seddon secured financial backing from Susan Gore, the wealthy Gore-Tex heiress, by the end of 2018 and began recruiting operatives from the right-wing group Project Veritas. The organization frequently traffics in misinformation and propaganda and is known for deceptively editing videos as part of its sting operations against mainstream-media outlets; its CEO, James O’Keefe, defended the group’s work in a previous statement to Insider, saying that “not a single one of our videos has been deceptively edited or taken out of context.”

One of the targets of the undercover GOP operation was the progressive group Better Wyoming. The head of the group, Nate Martin, told The Times that he believed the operation’s goal was to “dig up this information and you sit on it until you really can destroy somebody.”

After becoming deeply enmeshed with the Democratic party infrastructure in Wyoming, Maier and LaRocca got their feet in the door to a higher level of Democratic politics with sudden, substantial contributions to other western Democratic candidates like Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, raising questions about the duo’s campaign finance activities.

“Sometimes when you’re looking at patterns of contributions, you start to see people with relatively limited resources making sizable political contributions,” Brendan Fischer, director of the federal reform program at the Campaign Legal Center told The Times. “That can be a red flag.”

George Durazzo Jr., a Democratic fundraiser in Colorado who secured sizable donations from Maier and LaRocca, was outraged when The Times told him of the two operatives’ true goal.

“If they are indeed Benedict Arnold and Mata Hari, I was the one who was fooled,” he said.

The extent of Prince and Seddon’s effort underscores the Republican Party’s push to dominate national politics by taking over at the state and local level. Indeed, since the 2020 election and Trump’s failed efforts to nullify Joe Biden’s legitimate victory, Republican state legislatures across the country have passed a slew of laws that would not only make it more difficult for voters to cast ballots, but also make it easier for partisan forces to control and potentially overturn states’ election results.

Read The Times’ full report here

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