It’s still rather early in the morning, but I feel comfortable saying that the latest reporting on Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former White House National Security Advisor, is going to be the craziest story of the day.Rachel has been covering these developments for months – I assume you saw this week’s segment – and today the controversy came into sharper focus. Let’s start with this Wall Street Journal report.
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.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year on a meeting Flynn hosted in New York in September 2016, in which participants basically talked about kidnapping Fethullah Gulen, removing him from his home in Pennsylvania, circumventing America’s extradition process, and delivering him to Turkey’s government, which considers Gulen a dangerous enemy.
Flynn was a senior adviser on national security matters to the Trump campaign at the time, though he was also on a foreign government’s payroll.
Today’s Wall Street Journal report refers to another meeting, held three months later, in which the same topic was discussed: Flynn would “forcibly remove” Gulen, send him to Turkey, and receive millions of dollars for his efforts.
This meeting was held in December – after the U.S. presidential election and during Donald Trump’s transition period – as Flynn was preparing to oversee national-security policy at the White House.
Wait, this gets even crazier.
NBC News also reports this morning that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has taken an interest in the alleged December 2016 meeting as part of “a line of inquiry regarding Flynn’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkey.”
This comes five days after NBC News reported that Mueller’s team has “gathered enough evidence to bring charges” against Flynn and his son. That same NBC News report added, “Mueller’s team is also examining 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.”
Let’s note for context that Flynn, after getting caught lying about his interactions with Russia, parted ways with Trump’s White House just three weeks into Trump’s presidency. Flynn then retroactively registered as a foreign agent.
At this point, you’re probably thinking that Flynn is potentially facing quite a bit of trouble, and if so, you’re correct. But let’s also not forget that there’s an angle to this that relates to the president directly.
If Mueller and his team suspect Flynn tried to take official actions to benefit a foreign government, then anyone who tried to impede the investigation into Flynn’s alleged misconduct might also face accusations of wrongdoing.
So, for example, if a sitting president of the United States pressured the director of the FBI, urging the FBI director not to pursue a case against Flynn, that president may also be on the hook in a very serious way.
Watch this space.