Michael Flynn Admits Lobbying May Have Benefited Turkish Government
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Retired Army General Michael Flynn now says that he was working for the Turkish government while he was advising the Trump campaign. A lawyer for Flynn's now defunct consulting firm told the Justice Department this week that Flynn Intel was changing its registration of a lobbying arrangement it had.
From August to November, Flynn Intel had a contract with a Turkish-owned company. For that, Flynn filed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. But on Tuesday, the company retroactively re-registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, acknowledging that while the client was a corporation, the party who stood to benefit principally from Flynn's lobbying was the government of Turkey.
Well, Flynn, of course, was briefly President Trump's national security adviser. We've been looking into this, as has Chad Day, investigative reporter for the Associated Press. Thanks for coming in.
CHAD DAY: Thanks for having me.
SIEGEL: First, what was Michael Flynn's consulting firm paid to do, and how much were they paid?
DAY: So they were paid to do lobbying for this firm called Inovo BV. And for that work, they were paid $530,000.
SIEGEL: And what was the point of their lobbying?
DAY: What we now know from this filing that was disclosed this week is that the point of their lobbying was to do research into this cleric who is now living in the United States...
SIEGEL: Fethullah Gulen.
DAY: That's correct. And that cleric has been accused by Turkey's president of having orchestrated a botched coup last summer. That's also part of the work Flynn Intel Group, which is his firm, was also contacting government officials and talking about Mr. Gulen and also trying to talk about other things to promote the government of Turkey and Turkish interests.
SIEGEL: Yeah, the Turks have actually moved for extradition of Gulen, to bring him back there. They say he was responsible for that coup.
DAY: That's correct. And the Obama administration actually rebuffed that effort.
SIEGEL: The White House yesterday said that Donald Trump had no idea about this, about Flynn's relationship. But today you reported that the Trump transition did know about it.
DAY: That's correct. What we found out was that during the transition period, prior to inauguration day, a lawyer for Mr. Flynn had contacted what later became the White House counsel's office to say, it's likely that we might be filing as a foreign agent - or registering as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.
A source that we've spoken to has also confirmed that after Mr. Flynn became the national security adviser, there was a second conversation with the White House counsel's office in which they said, it's looking like we're going to be filing a fair filing with the Department of Justice.
SIEGEL: The Foreign Agent Registration Act.
DAY: Correct. And a White House official has said that the White House counsel's office has no recollection of that second meeting. So there's still some questions that we're still trying to figure out here.
SIEGEL: On Election Day, Michael Flynn published an opinion piece in The Hill in which he urged the extradition of Fethullah Gulen. The Hill has since added an editor's note saying, we had no idea that he was under contract to advance that case. Do we know what else he did apart from writing that op-ed piece?
DAY: What we know particularly about that op-ed is that according to his filing, Flynn says that prior to writing that op-ed or before it was published, he had actually provided a draft of it to the company that - the Turkish company that he was working for, which is actually - it's a Dutch-based company, but it's owned by a Turkish businessman. And so what we know is that they at least had a heads-up about what that - what would be going on with that op-ed.
SIEGEL: The man who owns the company that retained Flynn's company, Ekim Alptekin, tweeted this week, (reading) General Flynn never engaged in lobbying work for me or my firm, and I never lobbied or contracted a lobbyist on behalf of the Turkish government.
DAY: We've spoken with Mr. Alptekin, and he disagrees with Flynn's, you know, making this registration with the Justice Department and says that he doesn't think that it's necessary and that - actually, he has told us that he wants his money back.
SIEGEL: Chad Day, investigative reporter for the Associated Press, thanks.
DAY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.