Erik Prince, the founder of private military contractor Blackwater and an adviser to Donald Trump, is suing The Intercept over an article published in April that accused him of attempting to offer military services to a Russian military contractor connected to the Russian government.
The April 13 article, called “Erik Prince Offered Lethal Services to Sanctioned Russian Mercenary Firm Wagner,” accuses Prince of offering services to Wagner Group for operations conducted in Libya and Mozambique. The article states that “Any business relationship between Prince and Wagner would, in effect, make the influential Trump administration adviser a subcontractor to the Russian military.”
The article says Wagner had no interest in any such relationship, and Prince denied the accusation through his representative at the time the article was published.
Wagner has been sanctioned by the U.S. several times since 2016 over its role in various Russian military operations, including the ongoing Ukraine crisis, which early on saw Russia invade Ukrainian territory and annex the Crimea.
In his lawsuit, filed May 19 in the US District Court of Wyoming, Prince he had “no choice but to defend himself” because The Intercept accused him “of being a criminal and a traitor based on dishonest and biased anonymous sources that it made no effort to corroborate.”
The suit says The Intercept “acted with actual malice” by publishing the report, and criticized the site for publishing the story despite not having any witness on the record. The suit also accuses The Intercept of knowingly publishing false statements.
The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, “injunctive and declarative relief,” coverage of all legal fees, an award of “pre and post-judgment interest,” and any additional relief the court may deem appropriate.
The Intercept did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap, but in a statement provided to the website Real Clear Investigations, a representative said, “We will not comment until we are able to review any lawsuit.”
Blackwater, best known for its work during the war in Iraq, a 2007 incident when several Blackwater employees killed 14 civilians, and several unverified accusations of war crimes. It changed its name to XE in 2009 and changed its name again in 2012 to Academi. Prince has largely been uninvolved with the company since 2012.
The Intercept came under fire in 2017 after it published NSA documents provided by a whistleblower named Reality Winner, but failed to take steps to remove metadata and protect their source. As a result, the government was able to identify Winner as the source and arrested her. She is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.