If two parties conspire to “forcibly remove” an individual in exchange for lots of money, where that individual is dashed off to another country, the word that comes to mind is kidnapping. It’s also a felony, and Michael Flynn and his son are alleged to have participated in that conspiracy.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating an alleged plan involving former White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey in return for millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, according to people with knowledge of discussions Mr. Flynn had with Turkish representatives. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed the U.S. to extradite him, views the cleric as a political enemy.
The evidence so far is pretty thin, based on FBI interviews of four individuals who knew about the meeting but were not in the room. However, Flynn and former CIA Director Woolsey were in the room in a previous meeting just a few months earlier, so there’s plausibility.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, while serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign, met with top Turkish government ministers and discussed removing a Muslim cleric from the U.S. and taking him to Turkey, according to former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey, who attended, and others who were briefed on the meeting.
The discussion late last summer involved ideas about how to get Fethullah Gulen, a cleric whom Turkey has accused of orchestrating last summer’s failed military coup, to Turkey without going through the U.S. extradition legal process, according to Mr. Woolsey and those who were briefed.
Mr. Woolsey told The Wall Street Journal he arrived at the meeting in New York on Sept. 19 in the middle of the discussion and found the topic startling and the actions being discussed possibly illegal.
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 may explain why Flynn is worried about his son. I wouldn’t put this proposal past the Turks. After the botched coup attempt, Erdogan has made Gulen a boogeyman; the Turkish strongman has been actively purging anyone even remotely affiliated with the cleric. I don’t know if I’d put it this past Flynn. He’s proven himself to be ethically and judgmentally challenged, but criminal? Beyond failing to register as an agent for a foreign government, we’ll see.
Update: NBC News has a little more.
Federal investigators are examining whether former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn met with senior Turkish officials just weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration about a potential quid pro quo in which Flynn would be paid to carry out directives from Ankara secretly while in the White House, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation.
Investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference with the U.S. presidential election recently questioned witnesses about the alleged December 2016 meeting between Flynn and senior Turkish officials, two people knowledgeable with the interviews said. The questions were part of a line of inquiry regarding Flynn’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkey.
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 Erdogan 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.
Mueller is specifically examining whether the deal, if successful, would have led to millions of dollars in secret payments to Flynn, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.
This is a somewhat different wrinkle from the WSJ report, but it still involves moving bodies in exchange for cash.