Turkey is going to go ahead and turn the absurdity knob up to a Spinal Tap-ish “11” in light of what certainly appears to be an effort on the part of U.S. authorities to flip Reza Zarrab, a former gold trader who stands accused of participating in a plot to evade sanctions on Iran.
Earlier this month, Zarrab disappeared from the Metropolitan Correctional Center and according to multiple sources, is now cooperating with prosecutors. It’s unlikely the cooperation is tied to co-defendant Mehmet Atilla, because compared to Zarrab, Atilla is a small fish.
Zarrab has ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Earlier this month, the Turkish lira plunged after documents introduced in a filing in federal court in Manhattan detailed recorded phone calls that found Zarrab invoking Erdogan’s name.
If you aren’t familiar with the case, we would encourage you to to read more here, but suffice to say this is one of the key points of contention between Ankara and Washington. As we detailed on Friday, Erdogan variously (and vociferously) debated the issue with the previous administration, pleading his case to Joe Biden, compelling his wife to beg Jill Biden to intervene, and in his last two phone calls with Obama, similarly appealing to have the matter resolved.
As with all things related to Erdogan, there’s a connection to his arch nemesis, Pennsylvania resident Fethullah Gulen. If you ask Erdogan, Gulen operates a vast network of conspirators who are engaged in a perpetual attempt to undermine the Turkish President’s rule. Gulen was, according to Erdogan, behind the failed 2016 coup and also behind the leaked evidence which implicated Reza Zarrab.
Well on Saturday, Erdogan is taking it up a notch. “We know that some Gulenist officers who previously infiltrated Turkish Armed Forces have remained inside NATO after July 15,” Anadolu Agency reported, citing Mahir Unal. The reference there is of course to the failed coup that unfolded in July of 2016. “Unfortunately, EU nations are protecting those Gulenist leftovers”, AA continued.
If you think that’s absurd, then just wait until you hear the rest of the news out of Turkey.
On Friday, we detailed what Zarrab’s mysterious release from prison likely means. In short: it means he’s probably been flipped by Robert Mueller in an effort to extract information about Michael Flynn, who is implicated in a plot to deliver the above-mentioned Fethullah Gulen to Erdogan in exchange for $15 million.
Erdogan has long claimed that Preet Bharara is a bad actor who is operating at the behest of Gulen. Erdogan brought this up with Joe Biden, going so far as to call Bharara “a Gulenist tool.” He also demanded that the then-Vice President have Bharara fired. Of course Bharara was ultimately fired – only not by Joe Biden. But rather by Donald Trump.
And it goes well beyond that. Back in March, when Rex Tillerson visited Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated Erdogan’s demand that Gulen be handed over to Turkish authorities and while standing next to Tillerson at a press conference accused Preet Bharara (who had been fired by Trump just two weeks earlier) of being a Gulen pawn.
“I am not going to comment on false and silly political propaganda by a foreign official regarding a case that I no longer oversee,” Bharara said at the time.
Well as it turns out, just a month before that March meeting between Tillerson and Cavusoglu, Erdogan met with Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey who Zarrab had added to his legal team. And yes, that’s just as fucking shady as it sounds. Here’s The New York Times:
In late February, as the United States and the rest of the world were adjusting to President Trump and Turkey was focused on a push by its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to expand his power, Mr. Erdogan agreed to an unusual meeting with some American visitors.
The guests included Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor who had acted as a surrogate for Mr. Trump during his campaign, and another prominent lawyer, Michael B.Mukasey, who served as attorney general in President George W. Bush’s administration.
The purpose of the visit by Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey was rather extraordinary: They hoped to reach a diplomatic deal under which Turkey might further aid the United States’ interests in the region. In return, the United States might release the two men’s client, Reza Zarrab, a Turkish gold trader being held in a Manhattan jail whose case had attracted Mr. Erdogan’s interest.
So just to be clear, a Trump surrogate (Giuliani) acting as part of Zarrab’s legal team, met with Erdogan the month before Preet Bharara was fired by Trump. And Erdogan had previously begged the Obama administration to fire Bharara, who Turkey claims is an agent of Gulen, and that would be the same Gulen who Michael Flynn and his son allegedly conspired with Turkey to kidnap in exchange for $15 million. That conspiracy is now the subject of Robert Mueller’s probe.
Apparently, Giuliani called Bharara on February 24 and told him about his planned trip to Turkey. That would be the trip described above, during which Giuliani attempted to secure some kind of concessions from Erdogan in exchange for the release of Zarrab.
Bharara was fired by Trump just 15 days later.
Later, Joon H. Kim – who became the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan after Bharara was fired – wrote to the judge arguing that the court was “entitled to better understand” the roles of Giuliani and Mukasey. His office also said Giuliani and Mukasey “sought to meet other officials in the U.S. government” to discuss Zarrab.
I think it goes without saying that this is laughably suspect. And it all came within a month of Donald Trump asking James Comey if he was willing to “let [Michael] Flynn go.” That would be the same Michael Flynn who was a paid surrogate for Turkey and who Mueller is now investigating for plotting to kidnap Fethullah Gulen, the same Gulen who Erdogan claims is in cahoots with Bharara.
So that brings us to Saturday and this headline:
- TURKEY PROSECUTOR STARTS PROBE ON FORMER, CURRENT NY PROSECUTOR
That’s right folks, Turkey is now going to “investigate” both Joon H. Kim and Preet Bharara. And you’ll never guess why.
I’m just kidding. You know damn well why. It’s because they’re scared to death that Zarrab is cooperating with Mueller. Here’s Hurriyet (translated):
The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into former New York Southern District Attorney Preet Bharara and prosecutor Joon H Kim on the grounds that the document, the evidence, is fraudulent and unquestionable in the case of Reza Zarrab in the United States.
And here’s Anadolu Agency:
Turkey has launched a probe into a former and a current U.S. prosecutors who are currently involved in a case against Turkish citizens in New York.
The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office on Saturday accused former U.S. prosecutor Preet Bharara and current U.S. prosecutor Joon H. Kim of using information and documents from previous investigations in Turkey for an ongoing case in the U.S.
The U.S. prosecutors had obtained some voice recordings and other fake documents from unknown persons instead of official channels, which was contrary to international law, for building their case against Turkish citizens in America, according to Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office.
This, folks, is what panic looks like and I’ve got to tell you, it is hilarious. It looks to me like everyone from Trump, to Flynn, to Giuliani tried to figure out a way out of this for Erdogan and it might well have worked right up until Trump fired James Comey thereby releasing the Mueller Kraken.
Now, “Bobby Three Sticks” is on the trail and nobody can throw him off. It’s too damn late. Zarrab has likely been flipped and no one can find him, Flynn is staring down the prospect of having to choose between saving his son or cooperating with Mueller, and if it turns out that Trump’s efforts to convince James Comey to let Flynn off the hook were tied to the Zarrab case too, well that’s more evidence of obstruction of justice.
And finally, Bharara doesn’t seem overly concerned with Turkey’s inquiry…
Better call Saul. https://t.co/8z3vRXR2By
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) November 18, 2017