It’s not Russian influence, but it might be almost as bad. Both the Wall Street Journal and NBC News report this morning that special counsel Robert Mueller has focused on former Gen. Michael Flynn and his son for a reported deal to allow Turkey to get their hands on exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. The deal reportedly involved a $15 million payday for Flynn and his son Michael Jr — and was being put together during the Trump transition after the election:
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.
However, it’s not clear just how solid this information is. According to the WSJ’s report, Mueller is getting the information second-hand:
The people who described the alleged proposal said they didn’t attend the December meeting and didn’t have direct knowledge from Mr. Flynn or his associates about its purported details. It isn’t clear how advanced Mr. Mueller’s investigation of the alleged plan to remove Mr. Gulen is, nor is there any indication that any money changed hands, according to those familiar with the discussions and the FBI investigation.
NBC reports that Mueller has enough information to bring charges against Flynn, but that appears to be in relation to Flynn’s failure to register as a foreign agent — at least for now:
The conspiracy alleged — through hearsay, apparently — would have required Flynn to either push the federal government to change its mind about Gulen and extradite him or remove him by other means. What other means? That may be what Mueller’s trying to find out:
It is unclear how Flynn, as national security adviser, could have successfully carried out either alleged request. But any deal in which a government official would be bribed to secretly act on behalf of a foreign government could potentially constitute multiple federal crimes.
Investigators also are looking into what possible role Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, may have played in any such efforts. The younger Flynn worked closely with his father at his lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group.
This advances the story a little further than we saw over the last weekend when Allahpundit first wrote about the advance on Flynn by Mueller. While this has nothing to do with Russian influence, it does put the Trump administration in a tough position politically. How did they miss Flynn’s repeated contacts with the Turks over Gulen before bringing him into the government as national security adviser? Did they not review his records as a consultant and check out his client list? Basic due diligence apparently did not get performed — and that’s the best-case scenario for the White House, the “oops, we erred” excuse.
On the other hand, so far this appears based on hearsay. Under some circumstances, hearsay is admissible, but those circumstances are limited. This situation doesn’t appear to include any of those, so prosecutors will likely need corroborating witnesses to back that up. It also seems a little fishy, too; Flynn had a long track record of faithful service to the US before going into business for himself, even if that track record included a sharp tongue. It seems out of character, to say the least, for Flynn to instantly flip to a sell-out to this extreme so quickly, and for what? Turkey and Erdogan? That’s tough to buy. That’s not to say that Flynn wasn’t selling, but Mueller better have more than rumors to back up these sensational media reports.
On the other other hand, Flynn demanded immunity before talking with Senate investigators this spring. He must have had some reason to worry.
Finally, these leaks validate Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s decision to slap a gag order on the Paul Manafort-Rick Gates trial. Mueller’s team is leaking like a sieve. Perhaps Jackson should consider expanding that gag order to the entire special-counsel effort.