The Russian Connection: The Turkish Kidnap Plot

Another shoe may be about to drop in the probe of the Trump administration and Russian involvement in the 2016 elections. On Sunday, a report by NBC News revealed the Special Counsel Robert Mueller III has enough evidence to indict Trump’s former national security adviser, General Michael T. Flynn and his son Michael G. Flynn.

Mueller’s team is examining Flynn’s business deals which led to questions whether Flynn attempted to orchestrate the removal of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, two officials said.

This morning a new article went into the details of the plot which began during the transition.

Four people familiar with the investigation said Mueller is looking into whether Flynn discussed in the late December meeting orchestrating the return to Turkey of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who lives in the U.S. Additionally, three people familiar with the probe said investigators are examining whether Flynn and other participants discussed a way to free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who is jailed in the U.S. Zarrab is facing federal charges that he helped Iran skirt U.S. sanctions. [..]

The meeting allegedly took place at the upscale 21 Club restaurant in New York, just blocks away from Trump Tower, where Flynn was serving on the presidential transition team. Flynn was offered upwards of $15 million, to be paid directly or indirectly, if he could complete the deal, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

It is unclear how Flynn, as national security adviser, could have successfully carried out either alleged request. But any deal in which a government official would be bribed to secretly act on behalf of a foreign government could potentially constitute multiple federal crimes. [..]

Erdoğan has repeatedly pressed U.S. officials to extradite the cleric, Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania. Turkey blames Gülen for the attempted coup in that country in July 2016. Erdoğan also has repeatedly raised Zarrab’s case with U.S. officials.

Rudy Giuliani, who was a top Trump campaign surrogate alongside Flynn, is part of Zarrab’s defense team. The New York Times reported that Giuliani met with Erdoğan in late February and discussed an agreement under which Zarrab would be freed in exchange for Turkey’s help furthering U.S. interests in the region. [..]

NBC News reported Sunday that federal investigators were looking into whether Flynn tried to push for the return of Gülen to Turkey once in the White House in exchange for millions of dollars, and that Trump administration officials asked the FBI to review the Gülen case anew. Officials said the FBI denied the request because Turkey had not provided any new evidence in the case, which was reviewed by the Obama administration.

Extradition requests are processed through the State Department and U.S. justice system and are not determined by the White House or other agencies.

The possibility of the multimillion-dollar deal involving Flynn and Turkey arose as investigators examined Flynn’s past dealings with foreign governments.

Flynn was paid $530,000 last year during the 2016 campaign for work he did during the campaign that the Justice Department says benefited the Turkish government. Flynn did not register as a foreign agent at the time, as is required in the U.S. for anyone working for a foreign government. His lawyer later said Flynn didn’t need to register because his client was a Turkish businessman not a government official, though he opted to do so retroactively.

According to Flynn’s Justice Department filing, his firm, Flynn Intel Group, was hired to gather information about Gülen, and to produce a short film about its findings.

The contract ended the day after Trump won the election.

Also present at 21 Club meeting was former CIA Director James Woolsey who gave his account of the tete-a-tete to The Wall Street Journal and has now spoken to the FBI and Mueller about the scheme..

“Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have been in communication with the FBI regarding the Sept. 19, 2016 meeting Ambassador Woolsey was invited to attend by one of Gen. Flynn’s business partners,” Woolsey spokesman Jonathan Franks said in a statement. “Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have responded to every request, whether from the FBI, or, more recently, the Office of the Special Counsel.”

Franks clarified that the FBI has been “in communication” with Woolsey both before and after the matter was taken over by Mueller’s office.

Mueller is also looking into a September 2016 Washington DC meeting the elder Flynn, his son and associates in his now defunct Flynn Intel Group had with Vladimir Putin’s favorite congressman Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as part of the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.

Mueller is reviewing emails sent from Flynn Intel Group to Rohrabacher’s congressional staff thanking them for the meeting, according to one of the sources, as part of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Rohrabacher, a California Republican, has pushed for better relations with Russia, traveled to Moscow to meet with officials and advocated to overturn the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 bill that froze assets of Russian investigators and prosecutors. The sources could not confirm whether Rohrabacher and Flynn discussed U.S. policy towards Russia in the alleged meeting.[..]

Mueller’s interest in the nature of Flynn and Rohrabacher’s discussion marks the first known time a member of Congress could be wrapped into the investigation.

Most of what has been reported about Mueller’s questioning of Flynn’s lobbying work has concerned his efforts on behalf of Turkey. Less is known about his lobbying ties to Russia, though he was paid $45,000 plus expenses for attending a gala in Moscow in December 2015 and being interviewed by RT, the Kremlin-financed cable TV news channel.

It certainly looks as though Mueller i s about to drop the hammer on Flynn and son.