Last time we met in Buenos Aires, President Trump told President Erdogan that they have been working on that. But we need to see concrete steps because it has been already two years, almost three years.
That’s from Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaking at a conference in Doha on Sunday.
Can you guess what it refers to? If you said: Donald Trump removing Erdogan’s arch nemesis Fethullah Gulen from the U.S., you win a free trip to a Turkish prison.
As regular readers know, this story is important and it’s something of a special obsession of ours. We see no need to provide a comprehensive recap here given the fact that we’ve provided nothing short of blanket coverage over the past two years. Those interested can, and definitely should, read the entire backstory via our archive or, if you’re pressed for time, in the post linked below which provides a pretty concise yet comprehensive recap.
The bottom line is that Erdogan has successfully parlayed the Jamal Khashoggi killing into renewed demands on Washington regarding Gulen’s extradition – effectively, the Turkish President is holding the evidence he has against Crown Prince Mohammed over Washington’s head in an effort to get his hands on Gulen. Something like this: “I’ll let the Bin Salman thing go if you turn over Gulen.”
Erdogan has for years attempted to convince the U.S. to hand over the Pennsylvania-based cleric who Ankara blames for everything under the sun including, of course, the 2016 coup attempt. Gulen comes up in every, single diplomatic row between the U.S. and Turkey and right up until the Khashoggi murder, Erdogan had consistently failed to make any headway. Basically, he’s always lacked sufficient leverage. Andrew Brunson, for instance, wasn’t nearly important enough and it became clear by the end of July that a Brunson-for-Gulen exchange was simply not in the cards. But Prince Mohammed’s role in the Khashoggi killing opened a new door for Erdogan. Effectively, he released Brunson to create good optics and then proceeded to press the Khashoggi issue. That, in turn, opened the door to the possibility that Trump might hand over Gulen.
But wait, there’s more!
If you follow this story closely, you know there’s a Michael Flynn connection. We’re going to excerpt some passages from a post published here on November 10, 2017, because you really need the backstory on this to understand what happened on Monday. To wit, from “Mueller Probing Flynn Plot To Kidnap Pennsylvania Cleric, Deliver Him To Turkey For $15 Million“:
Remember last weekend when NBC broke the news that Robert Mueller has enough evidence to indict Michael Flynn? Yeah, well recall that one of the things Mueller is looking into is whether Flynn tried to orchestrate the extradition of Fethullah Gulen in exchange for “millions of dollars.”
That brings us to a new piece out from the Wall Street Journal who reports the following:
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.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have asked at least four individuals about a meeting in mid-December at the ‘21’ Club in New York City, where Mr. Flynn and representatives of the Turkish government discussed removing Mr. Gulen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI’s inquiries. The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of transporting Mr. Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, according to one of the people who has spoken to the FBI.
So Flynn and his son were actually going to try and kidnap Gulen, throw him on a private jet, and fly his ass to a Erdogan-controlled prison island.
You’re reminded that the long-running Flynn story centers in part on his lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkish interests. His failure to disclose that is a “big league” problem.
The December meeting described above was actually a follow-up to a September meeting attended by former CIA Director James Woolsey. That meeting was previously documented by the Journal as well, and was later described by Woolsey as a discussion about “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.”
Hilariously, Flynn and his son have a habit of accidentally incriminating themselves. Consider for instance these excerpts from an Op-Ed the elder Flynn penned for The Hill literally on election day last year:
It is fair to say that most Americans don’t know exactly what to make of our ally Turkey these days, as it endures a prolonged political crisis that challenges its long-term stability. The U.S. media is doing a bang-up job of reporting the ErdoÄŸan government’s crackdown on dissidents, but it’s not putting it into perspective.
We must begin with understanding that Turkey is vital to U.S. interests. Turkey is really our strongest ally against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as a source of stability in the region. It provides badly needed cooperation with U.S. military operations. But the Obama administration is keeping ErdoÄŸan’s government at arm’s length – an unwise policy that threatens our long-standing alliance.
The primary bone of contention between the U.S. and Turkey is Fethullah GÃ¼len, a shady Islamic mullah residing in Pennsylvania.
Yes, “a shady Islamic mullah residing in Pennsylvania” — but not for long if Flynn had gotten his way. Because if everything had gone according to plan, Gulen would have been kidnapped by Flynn, actually thrown onto a jet, and transported to a Turkish prison island. Then, at some later date, Erdogan would have paid Flynn and his son some $15 million, according to the Journal.
That entire Op-Ed Flynn wrote for The Hill on election day is a Gulen hit piece and just in case you had any questions about the extent to which it was entirely disingenuous, here is the disclaimer The Hill was forced to add months after it was published:
Editor’s Note: On March 8, 2017, four months after this article was published, General Flynn filed documents with the Federal government indicating that he earned $530,000 last fall for consulting work that might have aided the government of Turkey. In the filings, Flynn disclosed that he had received payments from Inovo BV, a Dutch company owned by a Turkish businessman with ties to Turkey’s president and that Inovo reviewed the draft before it was submitted to The Hill. Neither General Flynn nor his representatives disclosed this information when the essay was submitted.
So, in case you didn’t think Michael Flynn was up a creek without a paddle, you can go ahead and disabuse yourself of that notion right now. Because if the Journal knows that much about the December meeting, just imagine what Mueller knows.
Flynn is finished. Plain and simple.
As it turns out, we were right. Flynn was “finished” – “plain and simple.”
Fast forward 13 months to today and Flynn’s business partner has been charged with acting as an agent of a foreign government and also with conspiracy. The conspiracy in question: The attempt to have Gulen removed from the U.S. Here’s WaPo, summarizing:
Bijan Kian made his first appearance in Alexandria federal court Monday morning. According to the indictment, Kian conspired with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin to illegally lobby U.S. government officials and influence public opinion in the U.S. against Gulen.
Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin is accused of directing and funding Kian and Flynn’s work, and then lying in U.S. filings about his role. He is charged with the same crimes as Kian, as well as making false statements, but he remains in Turkey.
Flynn, who served as President Trump’s national security adviser during his first weeks in office, is identified in the indictment as “Person A.”
So, the very same conspiracy of which Flynn was a part and which is now the centerpiece of an indictment against his business partners, was being actively discussed by Trump in Buenos Aires at the G20 with Erdogan earlier this month.
In other words: The criminal activities of Trump’s associates (in this case Flynn) and their associates (in this case Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin), are ongoing, only now that all of these people are being arrested and charged, it’s left to Donald Trump himself to take up the mantle.