Dec 05 2018

Flynn was Turkey’s man inside Trump team - Memo

A memo released by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on Tuesday detailed Turkish officials’ close oversight of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s work for Ankara and hinted at a previously unknown Turkey-focused investigation.

The memo made public by Mueller’s special investigation into possible links between U.S. President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia detailed Flynn’s many lies regarding several Department of Justice investigations. It first cited his “false statements” regarding a December 2016 meeting with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Those lies led Flynn to resign as Trump’s national security adviser in March 2017, after less than a month on the job, making him the shortest-serving national security adviser in the nearly 70-year history of the position.

Days later, Flynn’s connections to Turkey were revealed in his Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) documents, which U.S. citizens are required to file when working with foreign governments.

More of Flynn’s work for Turkey was revealed in his December 2017 plea deal with Mueller, a former FBI director. But both of those documents described his Turkey-related work as focused on U.S. companies’ confidence in doing business in Turkey.

The new memo, which has been posted online, highlights the close involvement of Turkish officials and the plan to extradite Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania and whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt. To begin with, Flynn lied in his March 2017 FARA documents.

“The defendant disclosed that he and his company began work on the Turkey project in August 2016, soon after a coup d’état was attempted in Turkey,” said the memo, adding that the project lasted three months and Flynn was paid $530,000 for the work. “The FARA filings omitted the material fact that officials from the Republic of Turkey provided supervision and direction over the Turkey project.”

Flynn’s FARA documents disclosed that he had received lobbying and consulting payments from Inovo BV, a Dutch firm owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, who has ties to Turkey's president. At the time, Flynn served as an advisor to presidential candidate Trump and often spoke publicly on foreign policy and national security issues. The fact that the man who was guiding the future president of the United States on national security issues was working for Ankara should not have been kept secret.

“The defendant’s business relationship with the Republic of Turkey was thus exactly the type of information FARA was designed to ensure was within the public sphere,” the memo said.

The memo then cites an op-ed Flynn wrote for the U.S. politics-focused news site The Hill on election day 2016. In the article, Flynn calls for Gülen’s extradition to Turkey, comparing him to al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and former Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

“We need to see the world from Turkey’s perspective,” he wrote. Ten days later Flynn was named as incoming the president’s national security adviser.

Flynn’s FARA documents said that Inovo reviewed a draft of the op-ed before it was submitted to The Hill. The filings said nothing about guidance or oversight from Turkish officials, but said Flynn had written the op-ed on his own initiative. “The defendant’s false statements impeded the ability of the public to learn about the Republic of Turkey’s efforts to influence public opinion,” the memo said.

Mueller’s team has also been looking into Flynn’s possible December 2016 meeting with Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and now Turkey’s treasury and finance minister, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, to discuss a plan in which Flynn would be paid to orchestrate Gülen’s return to Turkey while working in the White House. They may have also discussed a way to free Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who faced federal charges of helping Iran skirt U.S. sanctions.

In addition, the memo appeared to reveal in an addendum, excerpted below, the existence of a previously unknown investigation, which may involve Turkey. Flynn conducted at least 19 interviews with prosecutors over the course of his cooperation with Mueller's team, according to the memo, touching on at least two investigations, and possibly a third, redacted line of inquiry.

Screen shot of excerpt from Mueller investigation memo of December 4, 2018
Screen shot of excerpt from Mueller investigation memo of December 4, 2018

“The redacted documents and the plain language of the filing make it clear there are at least three investigations, one clearly separate from Mueller (and likely to be Turkey),” @emptywheel tweeted, in response to a tweet by NBC News’ investigative reporter Tom Winter.

The intention of the memo was to call for lenient sentencing of Flynn, due to his “substantial assistance to the government.” He is to be sentenced Dec. 18 and could face up to 6 months in prison.