The end of Robert Mueller’s work has left a number of key questions unresolved. One of them: why wasn’t Erik Prince charged with perjury, after having appeared to have clearly lied under oath to Congress about his role in the Trump-Russia scandal? Another one: what came of Steve Bannon’s reported twenty-plus hours of cooperative testimony to Mueller? Today’s redacted Mueller report appears to provide a big clue on both counts.
More than a year ago, the New York Times reported that Robert Mueller had cut a limited immunity deal with international operative George Nader, who helped arrange the Seychelles meeting between Erik Prince and Russian government representatives. At the time, this seemed to be Mueller’s way of getting to Prince. But check out this passage from the Mueller report:
“Nader provided information to the Office in multiple interviews, all but one of which were conducted under a proffer agreement [grand jury redacted]. The investigators also interviewed Prince under a proffer agreement. Bannon was interviewed by the Office, [grand jury redacted] under a proffer agreement.”
Here’s the thing: in nearly all instances, a proffer interview is the result of a deal having been negotiated. That can be a plea deal or an immunity deal. But either way, once the deal has been agreed upon, the person gives up everything they know in one or more proffer interviews. That person’s words can’t be used against him, and are instead a method for prosecutors to decide how lenient they want to be in exchange for the testimony.
The fact that Erik Prince and Steve Bannon ended up giving proffer interviews? That appears to reveal that they each negotiated a deal with Robert Mueller. Prince’s deal could have included immunity from perjury charges, which would explain why he wasn’t charged for lying to Congress. That said, there is no way to know for sure if these apparent deals were immunity deals or plea deals; the latter would mean some form of reduced criminal charges that haven’t yet been revealed. The Mueller report reveals that Mueller spun off fourteen ongoing cases to permanent federal prosecutors, several of which are still completely in the dark, so we’ll have to wait for more answers.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report