Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the Trump transition team’s efforts to open a back channel between Moscow and the incoming administration, according to the Washington Post, which has been on the receiving end of leaks concerning what is supposed to be a highly sensitive, serious investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Erik Prince, who is close to several members of the Trump administration, set up the back channel with a Russian tied to the Kremlin, the report alleges. Prince reportedly met in Seychelles with the Putin-tied official and a UAE lobbyist to discuss future U.S.-Russia relations. Notably, Prince has never taken a position in the administration.
The back-channel allegations are far removed from the original “collusion” allegations put forward by much of the legacy media. Even if it turns out to be true, there does not appear to be anything illegal or unprecedented about setting up a back channel to Moscow.
There are quite a few reasons why an incoming administration would decide to hold low-profile talks with a rival great power.
For one, the Obama administration spied on high-ranking members of the Trump transition team. The Obama intelligence community “unintentionally” intercepted Gen. Michael Flynn’s and Jared Kushner’s communications with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S., so it may not come as a surprise that the Trump team may have attempted to conduct diplomatic efforts differently.
Also, U.S.-Russia relations devolved into an unmitigated disaster during President Obama’s tenure. His “lead from behind” strategy led to an emboldened Russia that annexed the Ukraine’s Crimea and emboldened the Kremlin to take aggressive measures to support U.S. adversaries in the Middle East and Asia.
Moreover, many in the media fail to mention the fact that the Obama transition team opened up a back channel to Hamas, designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group, which rules the Gaza Strip. Robert Malley, an Obama adviser who later became the National Security Council’s Middle East director, was reportedly the point person for the back channel to Hamas.
While the Obama team was engaging in diplomatic relations with Hamas, Israel was in the midst of a full-scale military operation in Gaza seeking to end Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel. This marked the first sign of the incoming president’s unprecedented eight years of all-out hostility toward the Jewish state.
There are also unconfirmed allegations that the Obama transition team sent a representative to hold secret discussions with the terrorist regime that rules Iran.
Additionally, media reports concerning the low-profile talks in Seychelles repeatedly fail to mention that presidential transition teams often use back channels to conduct informal diplomatic talks with rival and allied nations.
“Back channels are a tool in the diplomatic tool box, and they can be a very effective tool,” Richard Moss, a historian and professor at the Naval War College, told ABC News in May. “There’s a long tradition of it — it goes back as long as diplomacy itself.”