With the focus on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on President Donald Trump’s former advisors Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Mueller is also zeroing in on the president’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and Flynn’s potential involvement in a plan to “forcibly remove” Fethullah Gülen, an opposition Turkish figure, from the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey in exchange for $15 million.
Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr, is also implicated in the scheme.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Gülen of orchestrating the failed July 2016 coup against him. He has been calling on the United States to extradite Gülen.
Trump fired Flynn after 24 days on the job after it was revealed that Flynn lied about discussing the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Russia prior to Trump’s inauguration. Flynn’s meeting with the Russians, as well as his failure to register as a foreign agent over work he did for Turkish businessmen, have made him a central figure in the Justice Department’s investigation on Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election as well as possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Flynn’s indictment is anticipated by Washington watchers following the indictment of Manafort and Papadopoulos on October 30.
According to the Wall Street Journal, FBI agents have been questioning people about a meeting Flynn had with Turkish government representatives in December, when they discussed removing Gülen. Flynn was paid $530,000 to promote Turkish interests in the U.S.
In late October, Reuters reported that while ex-CIA Director James Woolsey was a Trump campaign advisor, he discussed a $10 million plan with Turkish businessmen to “discredit Gülen.”
Flynn was also involved with a secret consortium — that, at least at one point, involved the now-sanctioned Russian arms-exporter Rosobronexport — to build and protect nuclear facilities in the Middle East, mostly in Saudi Arabia.
For someone like Flynn to be involved in the deal, which has been in the works in some form or another since the 1990s, is not so unusual, said Matthew Bunn, a professor of practice at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government specializing in nuclear proliferation and control.
“A bunch of quite senior people, retired multiple-starred generals [on both sides of the aisle], and retired diplomats have been involved in this project in one way or another and have had the idea that even if not all of it came together, that certain pieces of it might be worthwhile contributions to providing some security for some areas in the Middle East that need it, or to providing energy that was carbon-free or to fostering U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation that is important for other reasons,” Bunn told ThinkProgress.
The deal itself, though, with details in confidential documents held by the consortium, is somewhat unique. And the few briefings to which Bunn has been privy “involve major arms sales as well.” Bunn described the consortium as a “loose” one, without much transparency.
“I’d be really surprised if we ever got to the bottom of what really went on… It’s very uncommon. Normally, nuclear reactors are sold on a somewhat commercial basis,” said Bunn. In countries where nuclear facilities are state-owned — such as Russia and China — things are far less transparent.
“This is a very odd project — there’s no doubt about it. There’s never been a nuclear project, at this scale, with this much military stuff also somehow tossed into the project ever, anywhere in the world,” said Bunn.
What drew criticism to Flynn’s role is the fact that he had not reported the trips he’d made and his foreign contacts, as he is required to do as a retired general.
He was allegedly not paid in his role as an advisor on the project, something else Bunn finds highly unusual. “For a multi-billion dollar deal? No,” said Bunn. “I can’t remember the last time I heard of anyone senior doing something like that for free.”