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FBI Uncovering Turkish Ties within the White House

All Signs Point to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Special to the Armenian Weekly

Is there any connection between Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s pleading guilty for lying to the FBI and an Azeri-Turkish businessman’s testifying about having worked with Turkish President Erdogan’s government? (Graphic: The Armenian Weekly)

President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI on Friday. A few days prior, a prominent Azeri-Turkish businessman testified in New York about having worked with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.

Is there any connection between these two former power brokers who turned state’s evidence? All signs seem to suggest so—and they are pointing to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

On March 19, 2016, a high-profile, wealthy businessman named Reza Zarrab was arrested by federal agents in Miami for illegally trading Iranian gas for gold, and laundering the money through U.S. financial institutions. Zarrab, who holds citizenship in Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Macedonia, carried out this violation of U.S. sanctions with the aid of the Turkish government.

Erdogan began immediately calling on the Obama administration to do away with the case, fearing what would be revealed if Zarrab went to trial. Indeed, soon after Zarrab was arrested, others began to be indicted, including Turkey’s former Economy Minister and several heads of Turkish state-owned banks.

When the overtures to officials such as then-Vice-President Joe Biden and Attorney General Loretta Lynch did not pan out, the Turkish government set its sights on the Trump administration.

Michael Flynn was at the center of its strategy.

Flynn’s guilty plea this past Friday included admissions of being a lobbyist “for the principal benefit of the Republic of Turkey.” His statement of offense read that he lied in his Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings about being under the “supervision and direction” of “officials from the Republic of Turkey.” In other words, Trump’s leading national security adviser has openly admitted to having been a paid agent of the Turkish government.

One of the many services Flynn is suspected of carrying out was a plot to help free Zarrab and drop the case against him. There are reports that Flynn met with Turkish officials in mid-December—after being officially designated National Security Adviser—to discuss a deal in which he and his son would be paid $15 million for their assistance.

In addition, the U.S. attorney in charge of prosecuting the Turkish gas-for-gold case, Preet Bharara, was abruptly fired by Trump on March 11. That firing alone is not shocking, considering that it was part of a mass dismissal of 46 former Obama-era prosecutors. What is bizarre is that Bharara was being personally courted by Trump prior to his termination.

After winning the election, the president-elect called for a meeting with Bharara at Trump Towers in New York, where he asked for his cell phone number and said he wanted to keep him on the job. He called Bharara three times after that, including on the day before the inauguration, simply to “shoot the breeze.” Bharara characterized the conversations with Trump as one where the latter was trying to cultivate a relationship with him.

For a sitting U.S. president to be directly contacting a U.S. attorney is not exactly the ethical norm. As a result, Bharara let Trump know he could not answer his calls. A few days later he was fired. “To my knowledge, Donald Trump did not reach out to any other U.S. attorney,” said Bharara on his podcast, “and none has come forward to say they got a phone call—it seemed like it was just me.” Like other justice officials who have been fired by Trump this year, Bhahara felt he was, inappropriately, being vetted to carry out wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Zarrab himself hired former New York Mayor and close Trump confidante Rudolph Giuliani to be his attorney. Giuliani—who is an adviser to the president and whose law firm is also a registered foreign agent of Turkey—tried to resolve the case by flying back and forth between Ankara and Washington. Instead of pursuing legal channels, he pursued high-level meetings with the Trump administration in an attempt to arrange an extrajudicial “prisoner swap” between Zarrab and unnamed Americans being held in Turkey.

Those efforts failed, and Zarrab’s prosecution continued to move forward. As a result, officials in Ankara grew more and more hysterical.

Erdogan has called the Zarrab trial a plot to “blackmail” Turkey, masterminded by an Islamic cleric living in Pennsylvania. Both Bhararra and his successor, Joon H. Kim, have been accused of being part of the conspiracy and have had investigations opened against them in Turkey. Authorities have also arrested a longtime employee of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul on allegations that he is linked to the cleric behind it all. They also called on the acting American Ambassador, John Bass, to resign in the wake of the row over the consulate employee’s arrest.

However, despite all of the lashing out in Ankara, not once has Erdogan criticized Trump himself.

Instead, Erdogan calls the American president “my dear friend Donald.” Trump similarly expresses great admiration for his counterpart, saying at a meeting with Erdogan in September, “I think right now we are as close as we’ve ever been. And a lot of that has to do with the personal relationship.” Trump added, “Frankly [Erdogan’s] getting very high marks.” Even after Erdogan’s bodyguards brutally attacked peaceful U.S. citizens (not once, but twice!), in Washington and New York, Trump refrained from making any condemnation of Turkey.

Despite the affinity between the two presidents, Zarrab was unable to stop U.S. prosecutors from moving forward with the trial. Seeing no other way of sparing himself, he decided to go from being a defendant in the gas-for-gold case to the government’s main witness.

And this is when the relationship between Michael Flynn and the authorities also began to shift.

About a week after news surfaced of Zarrab’s flip, Flynn’s lawyer told the Trump legal team that he can no longer share information with them about the FBI’s special counsel investigation into the administration, signaling the beginnings of a plea deal. Another week went by, and Zarrab took the stand in New York. Three days later, Flynn plead guilty to the FBI in Washington.

Many analysts believe that Zarrab’s decision to work with the authorities was the tipping point that led Flynn to similarly begin cooperating with the special counsel. What Zarrab, and his associates like Giuliani, may know about the extent of Flynn’s and Trump’s dealings is yet to be seen.

However, what we do know is that Michael Flynn—a man at the center of the Trump team, with access to the most sensitive state secrets—was a paid agent of the Turkish government. His statement of offense issued on Friday clearly states he was being paid and directed from officials in Ankara. His activities may have included not only plans to kidnap an American resident but also to free a man charged with helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions and derail plans to defeat ISIS in Syria. What’s more, even after Flynn left the White House, the Trump administration continued to placate Ankara and considered extrajudicial measures to free Zarrab and others evading sanctions against Iran, in exchange for freeing American citizens being held as bargaining chips by Turkey.

Is it any wonder, then, why Erdogan feels so free to try to meddle in the U.S. judicial and legislative system, plot kidnappings, barter for detainees, and attack peaceful protesters when visiting the country? Not to mention the repression he carries out in his own country and in the region.

What Zarrab and Flynn, as well as the broader FBI investigation into the Trump administration, will reveal has yet to be fully uncovered. What is for certain is that the coming days of this investigation will be critical for not only the future of democracy and rule of law in the U.S. but also the basic protection of the nation’s sovereignty against foreign intervention.

23 Comments on FBI Uncovering Turkish Ties within the White House

  1. avatar Vahe Apelian // December 5, 2017 at 1:32 pm // Reply

    Insighful

  2. What the author says is true.

    Let us not forget, however, that every previous White House has been in bed with Turkey, denying the genocide, shoveling billions to Turkey, and lobbying on Turkey’s behalf. No one has clean hands.

    At least under this US president we are seeing some push-back against Turkey, even if perhaps only temporary.

    Please allow me to mention that I believe that Jewish and Israeli anger against Turkey (for opposing an Iraqi Kurdish state, for example) is behind a lot of the US push-back. Also, Israel is angry that Turkey evaded US sanctions on Iran.

    Look at all the Jews writing against Turkey. That’s a huge change. Jews have always been very pro-Turkish, except for Jewish academicians who acknowledge the Armenian genocide.

    The present US push-back against Turkey could not be happening without the support of American Jews.

    Please also notice that another worldwide Jewish goal is to boost Azerbaijan and slam Armenia. You have read the scores of articles by then, I assume.

    Let’s get real and stop the fairy tales.

    • avatar Minu Hermine Nikpay // December 6, 2017 at 7:45 am //

      I’am an Armenian who lives in Germany with roots in Turkey an Iran and i agree 100.000 % with your comment and I say thank you for this comment.

  3. avatar Arthur Melkonian // December 5, 2017 at 2:41 pm // Reply

    Serouj,

    Very well written article. I would love to have one of the main stream media posts pick your piece up. If they don’t it would certainly make for a very thrilling Hollywood production. Keep up the good work.

  4. avatar Stephen P. Ashukian // December 5, 2017 at 2:43 pm // Reply

    I am totally embarrassed for Flynn, even if Flynn is not embarrassed for himself for his actions. The “smarter some people would like to think they get the more unintelligent they get” and unfortunately we all suffer.

  5. avatar Bruce Janigian // December 5, 2017 at 2:51 pm // Reply

    Congratulations on an excellent article! It is most timely and important. Please continue your fine reporting and analysis.

  6. avatar Hagop hagopian // December 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm // Reply

    So what! Enough of this village politics. Instead of giving all your votes minus mine to the corrupt Clinton mafia this is the outcome.
    An editorial wondering why this administration has been influenced by the turks!
    I used to be a staunch supporter of the ANCA until I realized how embedded and hostile it has become in the past 10 years towards republicans. Trump 2020 time to clean up the swamp

    • Hagop, not a word was uttered about Republicans in this article. You are just so very partisan that everything seems partisan to you.
      I’m wasting my time replying to you because you are beyond help since none of the plethora of evidence has swayed you at all. Your idiot Trump might be draining the swamp but he will fill it back up with toxic waste.
      And, unlike previous administrations there is evidence of inappropriate collusion but you somehow rationalize it away by saying that previous administrations are guilty of the same? How is that relevant? Should we turn a blind eye? What are you saying?

    • That’s because the GOP is corporate screw. And they like the military industry that is stationed in Turkey. Worse easily bribable (think Dennis Hastert who thwarted the AG resolution) as money is their main motivation. No big Hillary fan but the GOP are 10x worse for most all Armenian causes. The ANCA does unbelievable things for the Armenian cause. Your wrong about them and need to ween off Fox propaganda. They recently ushered US congressman to Artsakh who are now on the Azeri black list. If you have noticed recent Azeri paid anti Armenian articles that are not only anti-Armenian but anti Armenian lobby. They are definitely worrying about its potency. One Armenia Artsakh and diaspora is the only answer. Thats it.

  7. Interesting theory and chain of events

  8. I can only repeat what Bruce Janigian says above: ‘Congratulations on an excellent article! It is most timely and important. Please continue your fine reporting and analysis.’ That sums it up. Very enlightening.

  9. And Democrats don’t have Turkish ties?!
    Breaking news: Democrats and Republicans, same….
    Both serve the empire’s financial elite. Both are utterly corrupt and dangerous. The problems we see in Washington today have little to do with Trump; it’s an internal struggle between American nationalists (neo-imperialists) and international globalists (neo-marxists). For us Armenians, both are equally dangerous. Therefore, God bless Russia.

  10. avatar Alan K Vartany // December 5, 2017 at 8:46 pm // Reply

    Can one of you guys tell me why is Israel so against Armenia and pro Azerbaijan. beside their shopping spree of Israeli arms.

  11. avatar Giro Manoyan // December 6, 2017 at 7:15 am // Reply

    Excellent reporting.
    I think it should also be noted that in December 2016 “A prominent businessman with close ties to Donald Trump has been arrested in Turkey so the country can use him as leverage in their dealings with the US President-elect, it has been claimed. Barbaros Muratoglu, a senior executive at Dogan Holding was detained on 1 December on “threadbare allegations” according to an investigation by Kurt Eichenwald, a veteran investigative journalist at Newsweek magazine. One of the top industrial conglomerates in Turkey, operating in the energy, media, industry, trade, insurance and tourism industries, Dogan Holding built a pair of buildings, Trump Towers in Istanbul. Mr Trump’s company has been paid up to $10 million by the developers since 2014 to affix his name atop of the buildings, one of which is residential and the other offices. During a phone call with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the day after his election win, Mr Trump mentioned Mr Muratoglu by name only for him to be arrested shortly afterwards, according US TV host Rachel Maddow, who was given an exclusive of the magazine’s story.”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-turkey-dogan-blackmail-erdogan-extradite-gulen-msnbc-rachel-maddow-a7471291.html

  12. avatar Anne-Christine Hoff // December 6, 2017 at 7:21 am // Reply

    Erdogan and Trump are not even on speaking terms right now. The fallout of this political feud is being felt in both countries. All visas to the US from Turkey are suspended right now and vice-versa, so Americans wanting to visit Turkey now will not get a visa and the same with Turks wanting to visit the US. They are two hotheads who do not know the meaning of the term “deescalate”.

  13. avatar vart adjemian // December 6, 2017 at 11:00 am // Reply

    Lobbying in the US has become a “dirty game”. It is driven by money and greed. The amounts being spent is mind boggling.
    In the past years, in addition to Flynn, there has been a number of Democrats and Republicans, who have been bought by the Turks and Azeris.
    Sadly , all of them have no moral principles or integrity. Their main pursuit is money. The issue is not simply Trump and his entourage, but the the system that allows Turkey to ” buy” the souls of immoral people of infleunce, regardless of their political affilation.
    It is a big shame and a disgrace. The system is corrupt.
    The sad reality is that our counterefforts are hampered by lack of money and finances. With our lack of financial resources, I personally believe we are doing the best we can, but in spite of some achievements and successes we are falling short.
    The Armenian Disapora has to become more active and involed on the politcial arena.
    Vart Adjemian

    • Unlike Jews, Armenians (diaspora and homeland) do not have the numbers, the organization, the sophistication, the unity, the wealth or the ideological conviction to have any degree of impact on the utterly corrupt political process in Washington. Despite what we are made to believe, the Armenian lobby in the US is worthless and powerless. American officials who are thought to be “on our side” are simply those tasked with giving us lip service. The American empire is to large, too wealthy, too criminal and too replete with powerful special interests to take the wishes of a relatively tiny, relatively poor and very disorganized Armenian nation seriously. The political West is utterly corrupt. The Anglo-American-Jewish alliance poses the number one threat to humanity. This is the 21st century. I really hope to see Armenians finally wake up from their political naivete.

  14. The author’s lack of questioning of extreme ideology-based US legislation, along with plentiful use of weasel wording like “plot; “close confidante”, “affinity between”, etc., in order to engage in some anti-Trumpism diminishes the value of this article. Supporting FBI fishing expeditions where voluntary statements made in response to particular allegations are later forensically picked through in order to find new offenses after the original allegations are found to be without merit is a dangerous road to go down. Would the author support the extradition to Azerbaijan of non-Azeri citizens that have trade links to NK, and for their prosecution in Azerbaijan for violating Azeri sanctions against NK? What is the difference between that example and that of a non-US citizen (Zarrab) being prosecuted in America for violating arbitrary US sanctions against Iran, sanctions that everyone outside of America hold to be grounded on ideological hatred against Iran whipped up by America’s Israel lobby. Would the author support the seizing and selling of the Armenian cathedral in NY by relatives of Turkish diplomats assassinated [by Armenians]? Extremist US law would actually support this, and is currently being used in an attempt to seize and sell ancient Persian artifacts from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in order to compensate relatives of victims killed by terrorists in Jerusalem. There are real issues present here, such as Erdogan personally receiving financial benefit from enabling Zarrab’s activities, and Flint receiving financial benefit for spreading Turkish propaganda, but that seems to have got lost in this article.

  15. Hagop Hagopian, good luck cleaning up the swamp with a water snake in charge.

  16. Concise article

  17. All American politicians, including those who have been tasked with giving naive American-Armenians lip service, are cold blooded reptiles. Trump, who is led by right wing Jews, is no different. In today’s world, the Anglo-American-Jewish empire poses the greatest single threat to mankind.

  18. avatar vart adjemian // December 8, 2017 at 11:04 am // Reply

    The partisan divide has reached an extreme level in the US. The comments reflect that within the Armenian community the level of partisanship is at the same level. Sadly, the country is divided and the tensions are rising.
    This is unhealthy. Everyone is entitled to his opinion but the current atmosphere is unproductive because there is no constructive dialogue or meeting of the minds. Both sides need to cool down a notch the rhetoric and attempt to be more objective and be less influenced by the press that has become extremely one sided; 100% anti Trump or 100% pro Trump. Both are wrong and it is not good for the country.
    In my opinion, Armenian-Americans should focus on the causes that affect our interests and causes; the safety and economic deveopment of Armenia and Artsakh, pursuit of reparations and preserving our culture and identity. As an electorate we are too small to affect other issues facing the country.
    We are making progress but a lot more has to be done and can be done.
    Here is an observation that is worth consideration.
    There are several caucuses in the US Congress.
    The Armenian Caucus has 105 members; 79 Democrats – 26 Republicans.
    The Turkish Caucaus has 139 members; 54 Democrats- 85 Republicnas.
    The Azeri Caucus has 42 members; 17 Democrats- 25 Republicans.

    It is obvious that we have more friends/supporters within the Democrats. The ANCA is trying to do its utmost to reach and enlighten Republican congressman to be more supportive to our causes. This is not an easy task. It needs strong support financially and morally.
    To be effective, the Armenian community needs to be actively involved by exerting pressure on their represenatatives. We have done a much better job at the State level ( 48 states have reognized the Genocide) and yet the
    Federal Government refuses to do so. If it was a constitutional amendment
    it would have passed.
    For geo-political reasons, and Turkey’s membership in NATO, whether Democrat or Reublican US Presidents with the support of the Departments of State and Defense have been friendly and supportive of Turkey’s regimes despite its many shortcomings, abuses and human rights violations. The only President that recognized the Genocide was Reagan; the numerous resolutions to recognize the Genocide never reached the floor for a vote because of Presidential veto threats.(The last ones; S-Res 410, H-Res 154).
    Armenian-Americans are free to be republican or democrat, and vote for reasons and considerations they deem important to them. But that should not stop us from exerting pressure on our elected representatives to be supportive of our causes.

    Vart Adjemian

  19. Much catharsis.
    In the end, nothing will change.

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