PoliticsFlynn juggled Trump campaign role with foreign lobbying, jurors told

22:50  17 july  2019
22:50  17 july  2019 Source:   politico.com

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Flynn juggled Trump campaign role with foreign lobbying, jurors told© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Michael Flynn’s foreign lobbying role during the 2016 election has been central to the case against his ex business partner.

Michael Flynn was actively involved in his firm’s Turkey-related lobbying in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, while he was also serving as Donald Trump’s top foreign policy adviser, jurors were told Wednesday at the trial of ex-Flynn business parner Bijan Rafiekian.

Flynn’s foreign lobbying role during the 2016 election has been central to the case against Rafiekian, who is on trial for secretly working as an agent of Turkey in the U.S. Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, was hired during the election to publicly disparage U.S.-based Turkish cleric, Fetullah Gulen, that the Turkish government had blamed for orchestrating an attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier in the year.

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On Wednesday, Michael Boston, the manager of the Turkey efforts at Flynn’s firm, testified that Flynn was on an October 7, 2016, conference call where the Turkish businessman who commissioned the $600,000 project complained that then-candidate Trump wasn’t being supportive enough towards Turkey or doing enough to expose Gulen.

Jurors saw Boston’s handwritten and typed notes from the conversation.

“Republican Presidential candidate has not defended subject's home country publicly. He should specifically ask questions about subject's operations and funding,” said one memo recounting the feedback from the Turkish businessman spearheading the project, Ekim Alptekin.

Prosecutor John Gibbs asked Boston what Flynn’s relationship was with the GOP candidate at that time.

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“He was working on … Trump’s campaign,” replied Boston, a retired U.S. Army Reserve officer hired by Flynn Intel Group to oversee the hastily-executed project aimed at prompting the U.S. to extradite or deport Gulen, who has lived in Pennsylvania for two decades.

Prosecutors trying the case against Rafiekian in federal court in Alexandria, Va., did not dwell on indications that the $600,000 contract may have been intended, at least in part, to influence candidate Trump and a potential future Trump administration.

However, earlier Wednesday, jurors heard more testimony to support that notion. Retired FBI agent Brain McCauley, who was working on the project, said when he attended a September 2016 meeting in New York involving Flynn and various senior Turkish officials, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavosolgu began the session by mentioning the ongoing U.S. election campaign.

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“I remember the foreign minister wished Gen. Flynn and Trump good luck in the election and that he wished the Turkish government would be working closely with the new administration,” said McCauley, who once held a top FBI post dealing with international matters.

Rafiekian was indicated last December on two felony charges: acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government in the U.S. and submitting false information to the Justice Department in a Foreign Agent Registration Act filing that was belatedly submitted in 2017.

McCauley recounted to the jury that early in the project he was told by Rafiekian that he had come up with a way to avoid filing under FARA, and to instead file under another law that allows for less detailed public reports, the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

The ex-FBI official said Rafiekian said: “The general wants me to file with DOJ, but I have a better idea.” McCauley said it involved filing with either Congress or the Commerce Department, but he was not certain.

Rafiekian said it was important that the project remain “under the radar to avoid detection by Tony Podesta and other members of Congress who are favorable to Gulen.” Podesta was a high-profile lobbyist but has never been a member of Congress.

Michael Flynn’s Ex-Business Partner Points the Finger at Him in Court

Michael Flynn’s Ex-Business Partner Points the Finger at Him in Court If there is a question of who worked on behalf of the Turkish government to influence the 2016 Donald Trump campaign, then the court should look no further than former national security adviser Michael Flynn, lawyers for Bijan Kian, the Iranian-American businessman and former Flynn partner, told jurors in the Eastern District of Virginia Monday. 

After apologizing to the women in the courtroom, the ex-FBI agent testified that he emphasized in very blunt terms to Rafiekian that it would be unwise to try to get around the foreign-agent law.

“I told him, “I wouldn’t f--- around with that,” McCauley said.

While Flynn’s role has been a prominent feature of Rafiekian’s trial, he is not charged in the case. As part of a plea deal cut in 2017 with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, the government agreed not to prosecute Flynn for anything related to the Turkey-focused lobbying.

In the deal, Flynn pleaded guilty to a single count of making false statements to the FBI during his brief tenure as Trump’s first national security adviser. But he also conceded to making false statements and omissions in the belated foreign-agent filing.

In the filing, Flynn’s firm reported that it was hired by Inovo BV, a Dutch firm controlled by Alptekin, the Turkish businessman. But prosecutors say the influence campaign was directed by senior Turkish officials.

Flynn’s lawyers now say he didn’t closely review the foreign-agent filing and didn’t intentionally lie about the effort. Prosecutors viewed that as a shift from his previous position and dropped him as a witness for Rafiekian’s trial.

Alptekin, who was also charged in the indictment last December, has publicly denied the project was connected to the Turkish government. He has not been taken into custody and is believed to be living in Turkey.

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A business associate of the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn was convicted on Tuesday in Northern Virginia of secretly lobbying for Turkey, a victory for the government after the judge considered dismissing the case because prosecutors lacked evidence. Judge Anthony J. Trenga had described the evidence against Mr. Flynn’s associate, Bijan Kian, as speculative and very circumstantial but let the case go to the jury. Judge Trenga could still toss the verdict. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.

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