Senate Democrat seeks attorney general’s recusal from Halkbank investigation

A Senate Democrat investigating U.S. President Donald Trump’s interference in a Department of Justice probe and prosecution of Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank is seeking Attorney General William Barr’s recusal from the case, Court House News website reported on Monday.

Senator Ron Wyden’s request arrives amid reports that Ambassador John Bolton told Barr that President Trump has a compromised relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it said.

“Recent reports indicate that you and former national security adviser John R. Bolton shared concerns that President Trump was granting personal favours to the autocratic leader of Turkey,” Court House News quoted Wyden as saying in a four-page letter.

Halkbank was indicted by U.S. prosecutors in November for evading U.S. sanctions on Iran. A Manhattan jury previously convicted Halkbank deputy CEO Mehmet Hakan Atilla of conspiring to help Iran evade sanctions in a criminal trial that ended in January 2019.

Efforts by the Turkish President Erdoğan to persuade U.S. counterpart Trump to limit the investigation have come under scrutiny in Washington.

The New York Times last month reported on a forthcoming book by Bolton, where he states his concern over Trump effectively granting personal favours to Erdoğan.

Meanwhile,  the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday issued an administrative stay pending expedited referral to and review by a three-judge panel in the Halkbank case, the Inner City Press reported.

The U.S. government last month said Halkbank should be subjected to escalating fines totaling millions of dollars until it responds in court to criminal charges it helped Iran evade U.S. economic sanctions.