Published: Sat, March 11, 2017
Science | By Guadalupe Butler

Flynn's lawyer told Trump team about Turkish lobbying during transition

Flynn's lawyer told Trump team about Turkish lobbying during transition

Flynn's filing acknowledges that the $530,000 worth of consulting work he carried out "could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey" at a time he was also working as a top adviser to the Trump campaign.

On Nov. 8 - the same day Trump won the presidential race - Flynn published an op-ed in the Hill urging stronger USA support for Turkey and calling for the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based exiled Islamic cleric Turkey blames for a botched military coup in July, 2016.

But Vice President Mike Pence - the chairman of the transition team - said that the first time he heard of the lobbying ties was this week and not during the transition. Erdogan has accused Gulen of orchestrating the coup in July and has called for his extradition from the U.S. According to an Associated Pres report, some of the lobbying work may have aided the Turkish government.

Between August and mid-November, the now defunct Flynn Intel Group firm received funds from Inovo BV, a privately-owned consulting firm in the Netherlands who has links to Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They also worked on research, informational materials and a video on the cleric, Fethullah Gulen. "It's not something that would be appropriate for a government entity to give someone guidance on when they should file as a private citizen". "Willfully failing to register is a felony, though the Justice Department rarely files criminal charges in such cases". "The businessman, Ekim Alptekin, said in a phone call from Istanbul that the changes were a response to "political pressure" and he did not agree with Flynn's decision to file the registration documents with the Justice Department". Alptekin acknowledged he helped arrange a meeting between Flynn and Turkish officials, including two cabinet ministers.

Alptekin, who founded Inovo in 2005, is the chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council, which is connected to the Foreign Relations Board of Turkey. Flynn resisted doing so, and his client still thinks he didn't need to do so.

"It would be different if I was working for the government of Turkey, but I am not taking directions from anyone in the government", he told AP.

Yet questions surrounding Flynn's links to Turkey first popped up as early as a year ago - prior to his appointment - raising questions about the quality of vetting of top Trump officials, and adding to the controversy surrounding the administration's ties to foreign governments.

HR McMaster was appointed as Flynn's replacement as national security adviser last month.

He dismissed questions about whether the information should have given the transition team pause, saying Mr Flynn had "impeccable credentials".

President Donald Trump and his administration have been engulfed in controversies ever since assuming office.

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