Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether U.S. President Donald Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was involved in an alleged plan to seize Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen and deliver him to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Under the plan, Flynn, who was fired by Trump after just 24 days in the job, and his son, Michael Flynn Jr, were to receive up to $15 million for forcibly removing Gülen from his U.S. home and delivering him to the Turkish government, people familiar with the investigation told the Journal.
The alleged plan emerged during Mueller's wider investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any collusion by the Trump campaign.
The network of Gülen, was one of the masterminds of the failed coup in July 2016 and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses wants him extradited to Turkey. Gülen had been a close ally of Erdoğan, helping him to redesign and install his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) in power in 2002. But his alliance with the AKP has faltered in recent years.
Embroidered images of Fethullah Gülen (L) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R).
The discussions included details of how Gülen, could be flown secretly by private jet to the isolated Turkish prison island of İmrali. The jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group leader Abdullah Öcalan, detained since 1999 on the prison island of İmrali, off the coast of İstanbul. Gülen network referred to as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) by its former ally AKP government.
Flynn is a central figure in Mueller's investigation because of conversations he had with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak last year and because he waited until March to retroactively register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the work he did for a Turkish businessman.
The Journal reported that FBI agents asked at least four people about a December meeting in New York where Flynn and Turkish government representatives discussed removing Gülen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI's inquiries.
The December meeting about Gülen was also reported Friday by NBC, which cited people familiar with the probe. The group also discussed how to set free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab. Zarrab is in prison in the United States on federal charges that he helped Iran skirt U.S. sanctions, NBC said.