Former national security adviser Mike Flynn revealed Friday that private consulting work he undertook while advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was directed and supervised by Turkish government officials, something people involved in the project have denied for months, Wall Street Journal reported.
The revelation came as part of Flynn’s agreement to plead guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his talks with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. As part of a deal for leniency, Flynn agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s deepening investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Along with admitting he lied to the FBI, Flynn acknowledged in court papers unsealed Friday that the Turkish government "provided supervision and direction over" a $530,000 consulting contract he had with a Turkish businessman last year, WSJ reported.
For months, those involved in the effort denied the Turkish government played any role in hiring Flynn to promote Ankara’s interests in the U.S. by attacking the government's former ally: Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic preacher living in the U.S. CIA-linked Gülen network was one of the masterminds of last years coup attempt.
Flynn didn’t publicly detail his consulting work until March, when he filed paperwork with the Justice Department about his work for Turkish interests. At the time, Flynn’s attorney and Ekim Alptekin, the Turkish businessman who signed the contract, denied that the Turkish government financed the project.
According to the WSJ, Flynn on Friday admitted that Turkey played a much more significant role in overseeing the project than previously admitted.
There is no indication in the plea agreement that others in the Trump administration were aware of the arrangement with Turkey. It appears that prosecutors uncovered omissions about the Turkey contract in Flynn’s disclosure papers and then used them as part of the leverage to get him to cooperate in the continuing Russia investigation, the report said.
While Flynn admitted in documents released Friday to making "materially false statements and omissions" in forms filed with the federal government about the work for Turkey, he doesn’t face charges on the matter, it added.
Alptekin has repeatedly denied that the Turkish government was behind the project. He didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday, but a representative said Alptekin stands by his denials, WSJ reported.
While working on the Trump presidential campaign last year, Flynn's consulting firm embarked on a project aimed at 'discrediting' Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish government has pressed the U.S. to extradite Gülen to face terrorism charges in Turkey.
As part of that effort, Flynn wrote an opinion piece that appeared in The Hill newspaper and online on Election Day calling for Gülen's extradition. The Flynn Intel Group also hired consultants, freelance journalists and public-relations firms to create a "60 Minutes"-style piece against Gülen. The film was never completed, and Flynn shelved the work before being named Trump’s first national security adviser.
In the fall of 2016, Flynn also met with top Turkish officials in New York to discuss the prospect of spiriting Gülen out of the U.S. to Turkey, according to people familiar with the meetings. Flynn and the Turkish government have denied ever having any such discussions. Those allegations have been a focus of the special counsel’s investigation, according to people familiar with the issue, but they weren’t addressed by prosecutors on Friday.
Flynn’s work for Turkey has been overshadowed by the special counsel’s focus on his contacts with Russian government officials. But the Turkey project could create more legal problems for Flynn and the Turkish government, which has tried to establish a new, cooperative relationship with the Trump administration, WSJ added.