President Donald Trump and his administration probably thought getting rid of key adviser Michael Flynn would bring an end to their foreign relations scandals, but the international controversies surrounding the White House seem far from over.
As it turns out, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reportedly sat down with senior Turkish government officials to discuss an extradition plan for Fethullah Gülen — an exiled Muslim cleric accused of plotting the failed military coup in Turkey — even before Trump won the election.
Flynn talked about hypothetically kidnapping Gulen from his Pennsylvania home, or as Flynn put it quite poetically, “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away,” an operation which, if set in motion, would have violated U.S. law.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey, who made these revelations to The Wall Street Journal, was bewildered that an adviser to a presidential candidate was so willing to be manipulated by foreign agencies.
At the time, Flynn was not just working for Trump’s campaign, but was also as a paid representative for Turkish interests — a half-million-dollar lobbying contract that Trump team later feigned ignorance about.
Flynn was reportedly devising plans to make the president put Turkey first in his agenda and was expected to report the minutes of the New York meeting, which also included President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powerful son-in-law Berat Albayrak, to Trump.
For instance, Ankara has accused Gulen of orchestrating the murder of Russian ambassador to Turkey. Michael Flynn, along with many other top Trump aides, has enjoyed a cozy relationship with Russia in the past.
In fact, it was his closeness with President Vladimir Putin and Russian ambassador to the U.S. that ultimately cost him his job.
Flynn was fired for allegedly deceiving Vice President Mike Pence regarding his relations with Moscow.
Ankara seems to also have figured out what strings it needs to pull to make Donald Trump do its bidding. Less than six weeks after the meeting where plans were hatched to whisk Gulen away, Erdogan ordered the arrest of Trump’s business partner in Turkey.
Michael Flynn, through a spokesperson, denied the allegations, claiming the conversation was an “open-ended thinking on the subject” and not an elaborate plan to illegally whisk someone away at night.
Just in case the nation needed another reason to worry about the president's conflicts of interest.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Carlos Barria