The Cable

Why Mike Flynn Could Be in Trouble — Again

Lobbying disclosures gone wrong.

flynn crop

President Donald Trump canned Michael Flynn last month after he misled the White House about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. But now the former national security advisor may be in hot water again. This time, it’s over his lobbying work before election day.

Flynn’s lawyer filed paperwork to the Justice Department Tuesday retroactively disclosing he lobbied for organizations affiliated with the Turkish government while serving as a top Trump’s campaign advisor last fall.

Flynn’s consulting company, Flynn Intel Group Inc., received $530,000 from a Turkish company for work that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey” according to the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings.

Failing to register is a felony, though the Justice Department rarely pursues charges in such cases.

Flynn and his firm were hired by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin through his Dutch-based company, Inovo BV. The retired Army lieutenant general was hired to “perform investigative research” over a three month period from August to November, 2016, the FARA filings say. Specifically, Inovo hired Flynn to “understand the tumultuous political climate at the time between the United States and Turkey so that Inovo could advise its client regarding its business opportunities and investment in Turkey.” Inovo’s client was a private natural gas export company based in Israel, though the FARA filing did not specify the company’s name.

Alptekin is a member of a Turkish economic board that one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointees runs. Alptekin acknowledged he helped arrange a meeting between Flynn and Turkish officials, including two cabinet ministers. The ministers of foreign affairs and energy met Flynn in New York in September, when he was Trump’s top campaign surrogate.

But Alptekin told Associated Press he disagreed with Flynn’s decision to file the registration documents, saying it was borne out of “political pressure” from the Department of Justice in recent weeks. He added on Twitter Wednesday he thought the FARA filing was “flawed” as the meeting “wasn’t in the context of [his] commercial relationship with FIG,” seeming to refer to Flynn Intelligence Group.

On Nov. 8 — the same day Trump won the presidential race — Flynn published an op-ed in the Hill urging stronger U.S. support for Turkey and calling for the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based exiled Islamic cleric Turkey blames for a botched military coup in July, 2016.

The Hill updated the piece with an editor’s note Wednesday, saying “neither General Flynn nor his representatives disclosed this information when the essay was submitted.” Flynn stressed in his filings he was neither paid nor instructed to write the op-ed but conceded he relied on research under his Inovo contract to write the op-ed. The update added Inovo “reviewed the draft before it was submitted to The Hill,” though Alptekin rebuffed that claim.

“For the record: nobody remotely linked to the Gov. of Turkey knew about Gen. Flynn’s article in advance and I wasn’t consulted either,” Alptekin said on Twitter Wednesday. “When I engaged Flynn Co. polls showed 85% likelihood of Hillary winning. If intention was to lobby USG I would have hired Podesta like Gulen” he added in a follow-up tweet.

Federal ethics rules prevent senior officials from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments for one year after they leave the government. Flynn retired in 2014 after serving as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency for two years. He served as Trump’s national security advisor for only 24 days, the shortest tenure ever.

Adding insult to injury, Alptekin told Associated Press he wanted the the Flynn Intelligence Group to reimburse a portion of his $530,000 in payments because he wasn’t satisfied with the company’s performance.

Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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