Sun, Nov 12, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Mueller said to probe Flynn over plot

A SPY:The plan allegedly involved kidnapping Fethullah Gulen from his compound and fly him in a private jet to the prison island of Imrali, the ‘Wall Street Journal’ said


Former US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on Feb. 13 attends a news conference at the White House in Washington.

Photo: AFP

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating an alleged plan in which former White House national security adviser Mike Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr, were to be paid as much as US$15 million in a plot to seize Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and deliver him to Turkish officials, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the investigation.

FBI agents have asked at least four people about a meeting in December last year where Flynn and Turkish government representatives allegedly discussed capturing Gulen, who is in exile in the US, the Journal said, citing people it did not identify who are familiar with the FBI’s inquiries.

At the time, US president-elect Donald Trump had already announced that Flynn, a top campaign supporter and foreign policy aide, would serve as the White House national security adviser.

The investigation into Flynn is part of Mueller’s probe into whether Trump campaign advisers colluded in Russian interference into last year’s US election.

Investigators are also looking into whether Flynn’s work on behalf of Turkey violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires people to disclose work for foreign governments.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded the extradition of Gulen, blaming him for a coup attempt last year, allegedly orchestrated from the US.

Turkey has failed to provide sufficient evidence for a judge to approve extradition, US officials said.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment on the reported inquiry into a plot to seize Gulen, and Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The alleged December meeting followed one on Sept. 19 last year, attended by people including Turkish Minister of Energy Berat Albayrak, who is the son-in-law of Erdogan, and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Journal said.

It was then that Turkish officials first raised the possibility of forcibly removing Gulen, the report said.

Flynn’s talks with Turkish officials allegedly involved a plan to forcibly take Gulen, who lives in a compound in Pennsylvania, to a private jet and fly him to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, the Journal reported, citing a person it did not name.

There is no indication any money was exchanged as part of that plan, it said.

“We don’t have any evidence that such a meeting took place,” the newspaper quoted a spokesman for the Trump transition process as saying. “And if it did take place it happened notwithstanding the transition.”

Flynn resigned as Trump’s national security adviser on Feb. 13 after only 24 days on the job. In his resignation letter he apologized to the president for giving “incomplete information” about his interactions with the Russian ambassador to the US.

Participation in an effort to snatch Gulen in the US could expose Flynn to an assortment of federal charges.

If prosecutors can prove Flynn and his associates took concrete steps to act on such a plan, it could result in charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, even though Gulen was not abducted, said Patrick Cotter, a Chicago defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor.

Flynn could even face charges of violating counterespionage laws if prosecutors established he was accepting undisclosed payments at the same time he was receiving classified security briefings as part of the Trump transition, Cotter said.

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