The Cable

Trump’s Former National Security Adviser Discussed Booting Gulen Back to Turkey

Mike Flynn was a paid lobbyist for Turkey when he attended a meeting with Turkish officials touching on ways to remove the controversial cleric from the U.S.

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On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that retired Gen. Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor and head of a consulting firm that filed as a foreign agent representing the Turkish government, discussed removing controversial cleric Fethullah Gulen back to Turkey without going through the U.S. extradition process.

At a Sept. 2016 meeting in New York, Flynn reportedly met with top Turkish ministers as they discussed ways to move Gulen back to Turkey, according to ex-Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey, and others who were at the meeting. According to Woolsey, the participants in the meeting talked of ways to spirit Gulen out of his Poconos Mountains retreat without going through the U.S. extraditions process.

Flynn was advising the Trump campaign at the time — just two months after a bloody coup attempt in Turkey that rattled Ankara and redoubled calls for the United States to extradite Gulen, who Turkey blamed for the botched coup.

A Flynn spokesperson told the WSJ, “at no time did Gen. Flynn discuss any illegal actions, nonjudicial physical removal or any other such activities.”

Gulen, a cleric who built an influential network of schools and cultural institutions inside and outside Turkey, is an ally turned enemy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has lived in exile in the United States since 1999. Erdogan accused him of orchestrating the July military coup and, while detaining thousands and cracking down on civil society, demanded his extradition from the United States.

Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States could not approve that without proof that Gulen was, in fact, behind the attempted coup. “We have consistently said to our friends in Turkey and allies in Turkey that we need evidence. We have a very strict set of requirements that have to be met for an extradition to take place,” Kerry said in July. Judging by the WSJ report, Flynn was more willing to engage in talks.

This is only the latest scandal to embroil the former national security advisor. He resigned in February after news emerged that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Moscow’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, and then misled the Trump administration about those talks.

And on March 2, Flynn’s consulting group, the Flynn Intel Group, filed with the Department of Justice as a foreign agent retroactively for work it did last year, while he was also advising the Republican nominee. Flynn’s firm said its work “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey” from August to November.

Flynn’s also attracted all sorts of the wrong kinds of attention for taking payments from Russian-state owned media to attend events in Moscow in 2015, which for a military officer is a violation of the Emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

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