An alleged plan that involved former US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania in return for millions of dollars is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
Michael Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million to hand Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen over to the Turkish government under the alleged proposal, according to people with knowledge of discussions Flynn had with Turkish representatives during a reported meeting in December at the 21 Club in New York City. The talks involved possibly transporting Gülen by private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, where Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is incarcerated.
Gülen is accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016. Gülen and the movement he inspired have denied any involvement in the putsch. The Turkish government has requested the cleric’s extradition to Turkey but has failed to provide compelling evidence to the US Justice Department to proceed with extradition proceedings.
According to The Wall Street Journal the details of the meeting are not known, nor is there any indication that any money changed hands, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Mueller’s interest in whether Flynn was pursuing potentially illegal means to forcibly deal with Gülen “indicates that the former Trump adviser faces another investigation stemming from his work on behalf of Turkish government interests, both before and after the presidential election.”
The WSJ also reported that “[o]ne person familiar with the alleged discussions about Mr. Gülen said Mr. Flynn also was prepared to use his influence in the White House to further the legal extradition of the cleric …”
NBC News reported on Friday that three people familiar with the probe said investigators were also examining whether Flynn and other participants of the meeting discussed a way to free Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is facing federal charges in New York for helping Iran evade US sanctions.
Earlier this year, after he was forced out of his national security advisor job at the White House for misleading officials regarding meetings with Russians, Flynn belatedly registered as a foreign agent with the US Justice Department due to revelations about his lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests in the US, including work on the Gülen issue. Flynn Intel Group had been paid $530,000 by a Netherlands-registered company owned by a Turk reportedly close to Erdoğan for a contract to do opposition research on Gülen and produce a negative video about him.
The alleged meeting to discuss the kidnapping of Gülen followed another meeting in September in New York between Flynn and Berat Albayrak, energy minister of Turkey and President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, with the attendance of former CIA director James Woolsey, who described the proposal to The Wall Street Journal as “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.”
Later on Friday lawyers for Flynn denied reports that their client was involved in a clandestine plot to capture Gülen and deliver him to the Turkish government.