“This is a country of legal process and a Constitution, and you don’t send out folks to haul somebody overseas.”
Last week, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn acknowledged that he worked as a foreign agent with the firm Inovo, owned by Turkish-American businessman Ekim Alptekin, who has links to the Turkish government. The firm hired Flynn to investigate Fehtullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed for many attempts coups.
Today, ex-CIA director James Moosley released a bombshell with The Wall Street Journal, stating he attended a meeting with Flynn and Turkish foreign ministers to discuss removing Gulen back to Turkey. At the time, Flynn served as a Trump campaign advisor.
Gulen resides in Pennsylvania in a self-imposed exile after a falling out with Erdogan. It seems every time something happens in Turkey, Erdogan blames Gulen. Erdogan has been demanding the U.S. extradite Gulen since last July after a failed coup. Former President Barack Obama’s administration continuously denied these requests. The Turkish government has said officials sent requests to Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but there has been no updates.
The meeting took place on September 19 in New York. Flynn’s consulting firm Intel Group asked Woosley to attend the meeting, which he agreed to do. Beforehand, the firm asked Woosley to serve “on the group’s advisory board and was offered a consulting fee for his work.” He turned down the firm after he heard the discussion:
The Turkish ministers were interested in open-ended thinking on the subject, and the ideas were raised hypothetically, said the people who were briefed. The ministers in attendance included the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country’s foreign minister, foreign-lobbying disclosure documents show.
Mr. Woolsey said the idea was “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” The discussion, he said, didn’t include actual tactics for removing Mr. Gulen from his U.S. home. If specific plans had been discussed, Mr. Woolsey said, he would have spoken up and questioned their legality.
It isn’t known who raised the idea or what Mr. Flynn concluded about it.
In other words, the men discussed removing Gulen “without going through the U.S. extradition legal process.”
Woosley did not interrupt the discussion, “but later cautioned some attendees that trying to remove Mr. Gulen was a bad idea that might violate U.S. law.” He also told a mutual friend to inform former Vice President Joe Biden about the meeting:
“It seemed to be naive,” Mr. Woolsey said about the discussion. “I didn’t put a lot of credibility in it. This is a country of legal process and a Constitution, and you don’t send out folks to haul somebody overseas.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, attended the meeting.
Comments by Those Who Attended
Flynn’s spokesman Price Floyd told WSJ that Flynn “did discuss the Flynn Intel Group’s work for Inovo that included gathering information that could lead to a legal case against Mr. Gulen.” He insists, though, that Flynn discussed “any illegal actions, nonjudicial physical removal or any such activities.”
Cavusoglu told WSJ to reach out to the Turkish Embassy:
In a written statement, the Turkish Embassy acknowledged that Turkish officials met with Mr. Flynn but declined to discuss the conversation. Referencing the Flynn Intel Group’s client, Inovo, the embassy said: “We are not in a position to comment on any engagement between a U.S. consultancy firm and a private company owned by a Turkish businessman.”
The mutual friend between Biden and Woosley confirmed he told the former vice president about the meeting. Biden’s spokeswoman only told WSJ that “Biden felt the Gulen matter should be handled through the courts.”
The Foreign Agent Forms
The forms that Flynn filed stated that the firm would “perform investigative research” on Gulen and produce a short film about the results. Neither happened and the firm never received a $530,000 paycheck. But as The New York Times points out, Flynn wrote an op-ed about Gulen for The Hill on Election Day:
But on Election Day, Mr. Flynn published an op-ed article in The Hill, a newspaper serving Congress, calling Mr. Gulen “a shady Islamic mullah” and “radical Islamist.”
“To professionals in the intelligence community, the stamp of terror is all over Mullah Gulen’s statements,” he wrote. “Gulen’s vast global network has all the right markings to fit the description of a dangerous sleeper terror network. From Turkey’s point of view, Washington is harboring Turkey’s Osama bin Laden.”
The forms said Mr. Flynn decided to write the piece “on his own initiative” and not at Inovo’s request, although they said that he shared a draft of it with Inovo before it was published. The Hill appended a note to the online version of the piece after this week’s filing: “Neither General Flynn nor his representatives disclosed this information when the essay was submitted.”
Flynn’s firm shut down after Trump won the presidency. He took on the role of National Security Advisor, but did not last very long. Flynn resigned in mid-February “after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.”
In January, a former administration official claimed that the DOJ warned Trump’s administration “that Mr. Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador.”
Flynn did register as a lobbyist, but decided to not register as a foreign agent since “the firm that hired him was not a foreign government.” His lawyer Robert K. Kelner explained that Flynn “decided to register after the fact because ‘the engagement could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.'”