Last week, we reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is close to asking a grand jury to approve indictments for former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and his son, Mike Flynn Jr., as investigators believe they have enough evidence to bring charges after speaking to multiple witnesses about Flynn’s lobbying work, including whether he laundered money or lied to federal agents about his overseas contacts. Now, we have a somewhat clearer picture of what Mueller has been digging around for in his investigation of Flynn who was fired after just 24 days on the job.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mueller is probing a plot involving Flynn and his son to forcibly, and lucratively, remove Fethullah Gulen, who as most regular readers know is Turkish president Erdogan’s arch-nemesis, and the man who – according to Erdogan – controls Turkey’s “deep state”, and was responsible for the failed (and faked) July 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan. In more practical terms, Gulen is a 76-year-old Muslim cleric currently residing in rural Pennsylvania. And, as is also well-known, Erdogan has for years been attempting, lobbying and threatening the US in hopes of getting him extradited back to Turkey. This is where Flynn allegedly comes in: reportedly he, and his son, were part of a plan to grab Gulen and deliver him to Turkey in return for $15 millions. To wit:
Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, according to people with knowledge of discussions Mr. Flynn had with Turkish representatives. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed the U.S. to extradite him, views the cleric as a political enemy.
While this may sound too bizarre to be true – as are most things involving Turkey’s cartoonish dictator – this isn’t the first time the public has been informed about an alleged plot involving Flynn to kidnap Gulen and rendition him to an isolated Turkish prison island to face charges of orchestrating the July 2016 attempted coup that killed more than 200 Turks.
Before entering the Trump administration as the president’s national security adviser, Flynn was lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests in the US, including on the Gulen issue. The problem is that – like Manafort and Podesta – he didn’t disclose that work until much later, in Flynn’s case March of this year, well after he was forced out of the White House for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.
Furthermore, Federal records show that the company, Flynn Intel Group, was paid $530,000 for advocacy work that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” He is now facing military, congressional and criminal investigations into allegations that he improperly concealed his financial ties to Turkey and Russia, and into whether the ties played any role in his decisions as the president’s adviser.
More details from the WSJ:
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have asked at least four individuals about a meeting in mid-December at the ‘21’ Club in New York City, where Mr. Flynn and representatives of the Turkish government discussed removing Mr. Gulen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI’s inquiries. The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of transporting Mr. Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, according to one of the people who has spoken to the FBI.
That wasn’t the first time Flynn allegedly met with representatives of the Turkish government to discuss kidnapping removing Gulen. As former CIA Director James Woolsey told The Wall Street Journal back in March, Woolsey attended another meeting in September where he says he told the group that the plan sounded illegal.
Ironically, the Fed’s interest in whether Flynn was pursuing potentially illegal means to forcibly deal with Gulen indicates that the former Trump adviser faces another investigation stemming from his work on behalf of Turkish government interests, both before and after the presidential election. We say ironically because last time we checked, Turkey is not in Russia, at least not yet according to NATO.
Even so, the entire account is based on hearsay:
“the people who described the alleged proposal said they didn’t attend the December meeting and didn’t have direct knowledge from Flynn or his associates about its purported details. It isn’t clear how advanced Mueller’s investigation of the alleged plan to remove Gulen is, nor is there any indication that any money changed hands, according to those familiar with the discussions and the FBI investigation.”
In light of the charges against Manafort and Gates, it is also likely that Flynn will face a charge of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires US citizens to disclose when they are acting in the US on behalf of foreign powers. And, like Manafort and Gates, the violations being examined have nothing to do with Flynn’s work on the Trump campaign or his brief tenure as National Security Adviser. However, like Manafort, Gates, and Papadopoulos, Mueller is working to find any dirt on anyone associated with the campaign in the hopes of flipping them or convincing them to testify against their former boss in exchange for leniency.
Until then, look out for more indictments, and – of course – the best part: Erdogan’s angry response which he is never too shy to deliver.