The Flynn-Turkey Deal Raises the Obstruction Stakes for the Preet Bharara Firing

Twitter is abuzz this morning with the WSJ story (this is the NBC version of it; here’s a paywall free link) that Mike Flynn and his spawn hoped to make up to $15 million for kidnapping Fethullah Gulen and delivering him to Turkey.

Investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference with the U.S. presidential election recently questioned witnesses about the alleged December 2016 meeting between Flynn and senior Turkish officials, two people knowledgeable with the interviews said. The questions were part of a line of inquiry regarding Flynn’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkey.

Mueller’s investigation into Flynn’s potential deal with Turkey was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Four people familiar with the investigation said Mueller is looking into whether Flynn discussed in the late December meeting orchestrating the return to Turkey of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Erdogan who lives in the U.S. Additionally, three people familiar with the probe said investigators are examining whether Flynn and other participants discussed a way to free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who is jailed in the U.S. Zarrab is facing federal charges that he helped Iran skirt U.S. sanctions.

The story has already been told; what’s new about this iteration of it is the eye-popping pay-off, as well as more details about the timing and location of a second meeting.

The meeting allegedly took place at the upscale 21 Club restaurant in New York, just blocks always from Trump Tower where Flynn was serving on the presidential transition team. Flynn was offered upwards of $15 million, to be paid directly or indirectly, if he could complete the deal, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

Mostly, the focus has been on the kidnapping part of the story (perhaps, in part, because Republicans tried to attack James Woolsey for his involvement in it a few weeks back). But, because of the timeline, I think the far more interesting side of it is the inclusion of a deal on the Reza Zarrab prosecution — because that implicates Trump’s decision to fire Preet Bharara, substantiating a parallel case to his firing of Jim Comey.

As noted, SDNY is prosecuting Zarrab for laundering Turkish gold into Iranian coffers. Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey are representing Zarrab, with Giuliani going so far as brokering a deal that would trade foreign policy cooperation for Zarrab’s release even while defying pressure from DOJ about explaining his role in it. Because the case implicates Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally, the impending trial has led to increasing diplomatic tensions with Turkey.

By November 30, Trump assured Preet, as he did Comey, that he would stay on in the Trump Administration. But that changed when, in March, Trump unexpectedly asked for the resignation of almost all US Attorneys. Preet forced the issue and made Trump fire him; early reports suggested Marc Mukasey might replace Preet. Since then, Jeff Sessions has struggled to explain his own role in the firing, which could be an important element to proving the reasons behind it. In the same hearing, it came out that Trump has personally interviewed potential successors for Preet.

In the wake of the Preet firing, those watching closely honed in on the connection between increasing scrutiny on Flynn’s ties with Turkey and the firing.

There’s another reason we should all be alarmed by the unceremonious firing of Preet Bharara, outgoing U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Bharara is presently involved in a case against Reza Zarrab, a dual Iranian-Turkish national accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. Investigators initially focused on Zarrab’s sanctions evasion. They then discovered that Zarrab was in close contact with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, who used Illicit funds to provide weapons, financing and logistics for jihadi groups in Syria including ISIS.

Bharara has a reputation as a non-partisan professional. He is known for independence and resisting direction, which led to tensions with the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of State.

As it happens, Bharara’s dismissal occurred the same day [actually Flynn filed his FARA registration on March 7] former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn admitted to obscuring ties with Turkish interests in violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Bharara’s dismissal also occurred in the wake of recent contact between Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, and Jared Kushner.

What this story provides is — like the Comey firing and not coincidentally also tied to Mike Flynn’s actions — important timing. In November, Trump promised to keep Preet. In December, Flynn continued his discussions with the Turks. In March, just after DOJ started forcing Flynn to reveal details about his work for Turkey, Trump reneged on his promise to Preet and — in the guise of firing everyone — fired Preet.

Here’s what the timeline looks like:

November 30: Trump tells Preet he can stay

Mid-December: Flynn has meeting discussing $15 million payoff for doing Turkey’s bidding

March 7: Flynn submits delated FARA registration ending in November

March 11: Trump fires Preet

Given Sessions’ confusion about whether he was really involved in that decision, I would bet there’s a paper trail showing he provided, as he did for the Comey firing, cover for a decision that had already been made.

The one other important detail of this story, which follows on stories from yesterday, is that Mueller has implicated Flynn Jr in this deal. That reportedly is already making Flynn Sr consider pleading, to protect his son.

But if he does that, he may be forced to disclose how closely Trump was involved in these discussions to sell US policy to Turkey to enrich a staffer.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

34 replies
    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      This has nothin’ to do with any diety. If Mueller’s investigation is allowed to go all the way through 17 years of a rolling fascist coup and Russian collusion with it, then Rudy Giuliani will go down with the the Trump and Mercer “empires” and the entire Republican Party in RICO convictions and conspiracy against the USofA. As I have been sayin’ for a year now, the only question left to be answered is where is the United States military gunna come down when the indictments are announced.

  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nice work. Given that everything in Trump’s world revolves around him, and that he sets the priorities and the standards for ethical behavior – as do all ceo’s, such as Tillerson at State – it would be unlikely if the strands you’ve picked out do not lead to Trump.

    OT, the Republican clamor that Roy Moore step down – if he committed the alleged sexual abuse – seems designed to get him to stay in the race, as well as to be politically correct. What lawyer would step down and thereby essentially admit to attempted sexual congress with a 14 year-old? Even if Moore explained it in terms of an appearance of impropriety, no one would believe him, not with his track record of outrageous behavior and his total disregard for the law and legal authority. Not to mention that, as with Trump, stepping down would be considerably out of character.

    • Rugger9 says:

      In the case of the OT point, note that the D’s banish Weiner almost immediately, but the GOP is trying to cover up for Moore to save tax cuts.  Raw Story has a summary up this morning and has been all over this.  https://www.rawstory.com/2017/11/here-are-the-6-most-deplorable-excuses-republicans-have-made-for-roy-moore-allegedly-molesting-teens/  Be prepared to barf.

      Heck, even Ann Coulter has weighed in that it’s 50 years ago (like Whitewater, more or less).  The difference between the Rs and Ds could not be clearer.

      On topic: the meeting with the cash-for-kidnapping offer is basically a conspiracy to commit a crime, for cash, and should  also get  on Schneiderman’s radar since it occurred in NYC.  As has been noted several times elsewhere, the POTUS pardon power stops when up against state charges.  Nonetheless, all of the “states rights” GOPers will find some way of rationalizing the to protect Trump and tax cuts for the rich, but I think it is  more likely that DINO Governor Cuomo will be bought to do the deed.  What’s important is this limit on pardoning means that Flynn and his son are exposed in such a way that the Kaiser can’t help them out.

      Mueller may be saving the Flynns’ indictments until after he knows what the NY AG will do, is Mueller talking to Schneiderman?

      • Wm. Boyce says:

        Yes, I read in the papers some time back that Schneiderman is working w/Mueller. Not on his team directly, but in cooperation. These guys are a lot smarter than the idiot subjects of their investigations.

  2. Domye says:

    Trump has a huge opportunity here. Bash Moore publicly, get Sessions to step down and promote a write-in campaign for his old senate seat. Get a new AG, Fire Mueller with the excuse of “my new AG can oversee this, since he isn’t recused. No need for Mueller!”.

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        “…Flynn who I would expcet to sing to save his ass.”

        Bingo, you hit the covedrall! None of the centurian generals including John Kelly who make up Trump’s last line of defense have the balls to stand in front of Mother Justice.

  3. orionATL says:

    i open the huffington post, the last of the five papers i look at each day, and this reuters story stares me in the face:

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/robert-mueller-michael-flynn-turkey_us_5a05b53ae4b05673aa58e720?

    i start reading – michael flynn and james woolsey were going to kidnap a well-known turkish cleric living in good ol’ usa who was an opponent of turkey’s new dictator and then extradite the poor bastard to a turkish prison island (no doubt with the help of a team of retired seals) .

    jesus christ. who ARE these idiots. which century do they think they live in. is alexander dumas their publicist.

    if true, these half-wits should never have even been considered for director of defense intelligence agency or the cia, let alone selected.

    unbelieveable, cockamamie hubris.

  4. klynn says:

    OT…any thoughts on the Bandar arrest? Especially since discussing money laundering, big bank accounts, ops and governments is the theme in the news?

      • CTuttle says:

        “One of the most famous is Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former Saudi ambassador to Washington and confidant of former US president George W Bush.

        There is no word on his fate, but Saudi authorities said that one of the corruption cases they are looking at is the al-Yamamah arms deal, in which Bandar was involved.

        Bandar bought an entire village in the Cotswolds, a picturesque area of central England, and a 2,000-acre sporting estate with part of the proceeds from kickbacks he received in the al-Yamamah arms deal, which netted British manufacturer BAE £43bn ($56.5bn) in contracts for fighter aircraft.

        As much as $30m (£15m) is alleged to have been paid into Bandar’s dollar account at Riggs Bank in Washington and the affair led to corruption probes in the US and UK, although the case was dropped in the UK in 2006 after an intervention by then-prime minister Tony Blair.”

        http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-senior-figures-tortured-and-beaten-saudi-purge-1489501498

         

        • orionATL says:

          i’m not sure, but i’d swear i remember ew writing about bandar bush, the arms deal, and riggs bank years and years ago at nexthurrah.

  5. Bay State Librul says:

    If this Wall Street Journal story is true, then I don’t care what anyone thinks, in my world this is fucking treason. Maybe not in the narrow legal terminology, but in ethical behavior.

  6. klynn says:

    EW,
    Sorry for not posting the link. I first picked up a reference to it in a RT piece but now the Bindar paragraph is gone in that piece.

    I’m trying to find a more reliable source.

    If true, wow. It is the freezing of the assets that makes all of this interesting — especially the timing. How would freezing the assets affect an undercover money laundering investigation?

  7. rst says:

    Then there’s this, reported the day before Trump fired Bharara:

    “On Tuesday, Flynn filed paperwork with the Justice Department identifying himself as a foreign agent who was paid last year to do work that could benefit the Turkish government.

    Then on Friday it was revealed that Flynn’s attorneys twice told Trump’s legal counsel team of his possible plans to register as a foreign agent — once in a conversation with Don McGahn, Trump’s counsel, before the inauguration and then in a conversation with another member of the White House legal team during the administration’s early days…”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/flynn-told-trump-team-he-might-register-as-a-foreign-agent/2017/03/10/7e30713a-05cb-11e7-b9fa-ed727b644a0b_story.html?utm_term=.970632215394

  8. Larry says:

    Gulen was to undergo extraordinary rendition, mainly a Bush II precedent, and novel only in the fame of the target. This is an example of absolute power corrupting absolutely, but based on an already corrupt precedent.z

    Also, empires always bring home and magnify the excesses they practice overseas. It’s ‘almost’ like imperial wars are trial runs for purges and political mass murder on the home front. Because of this, Republican and other right-wing fringe threats against supposed domestic enemies must be taken seriously, and counteracted publicly and persistently.

Comments are closed.