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Michael Flynn, Trump’s Former National Security Adviser, Was Working For Turkey

Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s National Security Adviser until being dismissed after it was revealed that he had lied to the transition team and to Vice-President Mike Pence about his contact with Russia’s Ambassador to the United States after the election, was a paid agent for Turkey while working on the Trump campaign:

WASHINGTON — The candidate he was advising last fall was running on a platform of America First. The client he was working for last fall was paying him more than $500,000 to put Turkey first.

Michael T. Flynn, who went from the campaign trail to the White House as President Trump’s first national security adviser, filed papers this week acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent last year representing the interests of the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States.

His surprising admission, coming more than four months after the election, raised further questions about the rise and fall of a presidential confidant who was forced to resign after 24 days in office for withholding the full story of his communications with Russia’s ambassador. Even now, out of government and out of favor, Mr. Flynn and his contact with foreign figures presented a new headache for a White House eager to move on.

Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, registered as a lobbyist last year but did not file papers with the Justice Department registering as a foreign agent, providing a fuller understanding of his role, until Tuesday. While he did not work directly for the Turkish government, the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and asked him to work on an issue important to the government.

The White House said that Mr. Trump did not know that Mr. Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when Mr. Trump appointed him national security adviser, a position that gave him access to classified meetings and materials. But a person briefed on the matter, who insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations, said Mr. Flynn’s lawyer contacted a lawyer for Mr. Trump’s transition team before the inauguration to ask whether Mr. Flynn should register given his work for Inovo.

The transition lawyer offered no advice, saying it was up to Mr. Flynn. After the inauguration, the person said, Mr. Flynn and his lawyer each raised it again with a White House lawyer, only to be told once more it was up to him. Mr. Flynn had no comment on Friday. His lawyer wrote the Justice Department that Mr. Flynn decided to register retroactively “to eliminate any potential doubt.”

The White House said its lawyer considered it a private decision and saw no reason to intervene. “It’s not a question of raising a red flag,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary. “It’s a question of whether or not they gave him the advice that they are supposed to, which is it is not up to them to make decisions as to what you need to do or not do.”

Vice President Mike Pence, who was upset that Mr. Flynn had misled him about the conversation with the Russian ambassador that got him dismissed, seemed less forgiving. News reports on the matter were “the first I heard of it,” the vice president said during an interview on Fox News Thursday night, “and I think it is an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask General Flynn to resign.”

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Flynn positioned himself as someone willing to call out a national security establishment that was too corrupt to keep America safe. When former colleagues criticized him for becoming overtly partisan, he shot back by castigating them for using their titles to enrich themselves by joining corporate boards.

In an interview in October, Mr. Flynn insisted that he had eschewed financial rewards to follow his political convictions and join the Trump campaign. “I would love to be making some money,” he said. “I wish I could stop what I’m doing.”

On behalf of his firm, the Flynn Intel Group, Mr. Flynn signed a contract on Aug. 9 with Inovo, a Dutch firm owned by Ekim Alptekin, the chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council. Mr. Flynn’s firm was to receive $600,000 for 90 days of work. His initial registration as a lobbyist last year indicated he would receive less than $5,000 for lobbying, although that presumably indicates that he did not define most of the services he would provide Mr. Alptekin as lobbying under the law.

Mr. Alptekin has links to the government of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has engaged in a political crackdown after surviving a military coup attempt in July. In documents disclosed by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, Mr. Alptekin emailed frequently with Egemen Bagis, the former Turkish minister for European Union affairs. In one email in 2013, Mr. Alptekin sent an article from The Wall Street Journal to Mr. Bagis, who then forwarded it to Berat Albayrak, Mr. Erdogan’s son-in-law and now the country’s energy minister.

Mr. Flynn was assigned to investigate Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and was blamed by Mr. Erdogan for helping instigate the failed coup. Mr. Erdogan has demanded the United States extradite Mr. Gulen, which the Obama administration refused to do.

The forms filed this week indicate that Mr. Flynn’s firm was “to perform investigative research” on Mr. Gulen and “develop a short film piece on the results of its investigation.” In the end, the video was never completed, and Mr. Flynn’s firm received $530,000 before the contract terminated in November. But on Election Day, Mr. Flynn published an op-ed article in The Hill, a newspaper serving Congress, calling Mr. Gulen “a shady Islamic mullah” and “radical Islamist.”

There are really two points here that I think are important.

The first, of course, is the fact that someone who was serving as perhaps the most influential national security adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump during the campaign was a effectively a lobbyist for a foreign government at the same time he was working on the campaign, something the campaign was apparently entirely unaware of. Later, he was appointed to be the President-Elect’s National Security Adviser even though the President remained unaware of the fact that he had been engaged in such work on the side, largely because Flynn failed to disclose it. That failure to disclose extended not only to the President-Elect but also appears to have violated the law since neither Flynn nor the firm he heads filed the paperwork that is required under Federal Law for anyone who undertakes work for any foreign government whether friend or foe. That someone who might have double loyalties being that close to the President and having the kind of influence over the direction of foreign policy as the National Security Adviser typically does is particularly concerning. The fact that the President was never even aware of this is even more concerning and, perhaps, a rather telling indication of how things operate inside the Trump White House.

The second major concern, of course, is the fact that at some point Flynn and/or his attorneys contacted someone on the transition team and asked them about the legal issues surrounding Flynn’s representation of Turkey. Instead of responding or passing the revelation up the chain of command, whoever they spoke with told them that they needed to handle the matter themselves. This means that the President was apparently unaware that the person he was appointing as National Security Adviser had been a lobbyist for a foreign government. The fact that Turkey is a NATO ally is irrelevant to the point, of course, especially since the United States has frequently butted heads with the Erdogan government in the past over Syria policy, the war against ISIS, and other issues. At the very least, this is something the President-Elect should have known and, again, the fact that he didn’t know about it tells us a lot about how things are being run inside the White House, none of it very good. It’s also worth noting that, but for the fact that Flynn’s contacts with the Russians and lies to the transition team and Vice-President became public, he would still be in the White House serving as National Security Adviser notwithstanding his potential dual loyalty. This is the kind of thing that happens when the White House is run by a group of hapless amateurs.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    And in other news, Trump adviser Roger Stone and Guccifer 2.0 were in contact during the campaign.

    Drip, drip, drip.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  2. Terrye Cravens says:

    I remember reading about Flynn’s association with Turkey months ago. If I knew, Trump should have known.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  3. Senyordave says:

    @Terrye Cravens: If I knew, Trump should have known.

    My guess is that you read and get information from a variety of sources. Trump’ sources are Breitbart, Fox news and Alex Jones.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  4. Lit3Bolt says:

    But Dr.James Joyner assured us the gravest issue facing the nation was a bureaucratic “Deep State” opposing the duly elected President of the United States.

    The fact that we can’t be sure of the loyalty of this POTUS and his cabinet and shadow advisors is of lesser importance.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  5. M. Bouffant says:

    It seems Trump was more interested in the appearance of his appointees than in reading (or learning) anything about them.

    A steely gaze, a firm (& clean-shaven) jaw & a uniform are all it takes. How can someone live to 70 & remain that shallow?

    And I’m sorry, but I can’t help myself: Is working for turkey better or worse than working for peanuts?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  6. CSK says:

    @M. Bouffant:

    Trump isn’t capable of any intensive study of his appointees. He doesn’t have the patience to read a very short briefing paper, much less a full file. And he lacks the ability to absorb printed material anyway. You have to remember that this a guy who said that he knew more about ISIS than did “the generals” (as he calls them) because he watches “the shows.”

    He can’t operate a computer. He depends on his minions to bring him print-outs from Breitbart, Infowars, The Gateway Pundit, and The Conservative Treehouse to bring him his “news.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  7. JohnMcC says:

    What jumped out to me upon reading this is that this fellow had been sitting in on the Presidential Daily Briefs. And that I seem to recall he’d acted sort of like a horse’s backend, arguing with the briefer and such. Ouch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. Franklin says:

    Sometimes Presidents are measured by their accomplishments in the first 100 days. For Trump, it’s going to be the number of scandals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. Gustopher says:

    But… Crooked Hillary and her crooked emails! And the Clinton Foundation! And Bill Clinton had oral sex so long ago that if the sex act was a person, it would be able to vote!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  10. Gustopher says:

    The most transparently incompetent, compromised and corrupt administration ever.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  11. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:

    That’s how he ran his businesses. How would you expect him to run his presidency?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  12. Mr. Bluster says:

    …he was appointed to be the President-Elect’s National Security Adviser even though the President remained unaware of the fact that he had been engaged in such work on the side, largely because Flynn failed to disclose it.

    This means that the President was apparently unaware that the person he was appointing as National Security Adviser had been a lobbyist for a foreign government.

    What he did not know…pretty much everything
    and when did he not know it?…24/7

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  13. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    “I would love to be making some money,”

    So $500k is not “money” in the circles in which Gen. Flynn travels; good to know!

    @Senyordave: Shouldn’t you count the NY Times? I understand that he gets news from there from his clippings service. Maybe he cancelled when he became POTUS.

    @M. Bouffant: In my case, turkey would be better. I’m allergic to peanuts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. michael reynolds says:

    Trump corrupt? Incompetent? Ignorant? Incapable of learning? Obsessed with trivia? Unable to grasp reality? Retreating further into conspiracy theory madness?

    I said he was a psychopath – devoid of empathy but with an instinctive grasp of power dynamics and unfettered by any concern for truth, fairness, custom or legality. I believe I was the first to point out that he was an untreated dyslexic and therefore, given his laziness, probably effectively illiterate. And I said from the start that though his psychopathic instincts might appear to be intelligence, they were not, and that he was rather stupid.

    The one thing that surprised me is the extent of his helplessness. He is so far out of his depth, so lost and confused that the shark’s instincts that were sufficient for real estate branding have apparently deserted him now. This shark’s been moved from a little salt water pool right out into the deep, deep ocean.

    People smart enough to be helpful are smart enough to know he’s poison. So his cabinet is loaded with sub-mediocrities. The only exceptions are the military men who have a more highly developed sense of duty and, I strongly suspect, took their jobs to save us all from potential world war.

    But by far the most worrisome fact is that his voters still don’t see what is as plainly visible as Trump Tower. He’s a crook, he’s a foreign agent, he’s massively incompetent, and aside from harassing Muslims he has thus far delivered on zero promises. In fact it now seems his great infrastructure plan is to be kicked down the road, where it will join his wall and his annihilation of ISIS, as the Mango Mussolini slowly twists in the wind. All his voters will be left with is cancelled health insurance. My only hope is that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell can still slash taxes so I can drink a better bottle as I toast the pain of his idiot cultists. Voters that dumb deserve to suffer, and I need a laugh.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  15. SKI says:

    There is no way Trump didn’t know.
    Elijah Cummings sent them a letter in November warning them. If he knew, they knew. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article137853773.html

    The top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform told then Vice President-elect Mike Pence in a November letter that the man Donald Trump had tapped to be his national security adviser was lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.

    The letter, a copy of which was shared with McClatchy, contradicts White House claims that neither Pence nor Trump knew of Michael Flynn’s lobbying until it was revealed in a Justice Department filing this week.

    In the letter, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, asked Pence, then the leader of Trump’s transition team, for information regarding Flynn’s business interests and statements regarding potential conflicts of interests.

    Cummings said Flynn’s work for Turkey and a speech Flynn gave in Russia could violate Trump for America’s code of ethics if Flynn was advising Trump on policy related to those two nations. Flynn was Trump’s principal foreign policy adviser during the campaign.

    “Lt. Gen. Flynn’s involvement in advising Mr. Trump on matters relating to Turkey or Russia – including attending classified briefings on those matters – could violate the Trump for America, Inc. Code of Ethical Conduct,” Cummings wrote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  16. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Hey, it was an honest mistake. Working for Turkey, working for a turkey – same thing, right?

    /Sarcasm

    It is disgraceful that there are people in this country who voted for this authoritarian clown and still refuse to wake up to what they elected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  17. CSK says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    You have to remember that they’ve hit on the perfect way to remain in deep denial about Trump: They simply dismiss articles such as this one as “fake news.” The NYT invented this story.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Does anybody still believe Flynn lied to Pence? They just didn’t think proof would come out.

    I’d say wait for the other shoe to drop on this administration, but it’s a poisonous millipede.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    All his voters will be left with is cancelled health insurance. My only hope is that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell can still slash taxes so I can drink a better bottle as I toast the pain of his idiot cultists.
    Voters that dumb deserve to suffer, and I need a laugh.

    There must be a word (one word) somewhat similar to ‘schadenfreude’
    that describes ‘get what they deserve’?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Dmichael says:

    Doug’s article contains what I call “the stupid defense.” In other words, “I am too stupid to be venal or responsible.” How about the concept in the law about knew or should have known and therefore responsible?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @SKI: Doesn’t this come under the category of who are you going to believe–a war hero or some black Democrat who’s probably working disinformation for the Hillary campaign? (And isn’t Elijah a Muslim name anyway?)

    @OzarkHillbilly: You’re just too cynical. Pence is unaware enough that he could have been lied to. And Trump probably doesn’t read sentences in the news that don’t have the word “Trump” in them, so there you go, not being aware==easy as 3.1416.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @al-Ameda: Karma? Fate? Destiny? Comeuppance?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. CSK says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    “Easy as 3.1416.”

    Cute.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    @al-Ameda: Karma? Fate? Destiny? Comeuppance?

    I agree, I think “Karma” is the one.
    It’s the only one I can come up with right now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Gustopher says:

    @al-Ameda: karmafreude — the joy that comes from seeing someone get what they deserve?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  26. Just 'nutha ign'int cracker says:

    @Gustopher: I like it! You should file for IP rights.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Inhuman99 says:

    I say this as someone who has family in Turkey, but I am appalled that Turkey was able infiltrate the White House using Michael Flynn as their spy. He should be arrested and locked up…it is beyond the pale that the GOP is not calling for him to be tried for treason.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. teve tory says:

    trump’s done probly 6 things the gop congress would have impeached hillz for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. teve tory says:

    @Inhuman99: The GOP is a collection of reprehensible people put in office by a bigger collection of dumb people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0