Ex-security aide Flynn also worked for Turkey
Ex-national security aide probed cleric Erdogan targeted.
During his time helping Trump on the campaign trail, the retired military officer also was probing cleric targeted by Erdogan.
Michael WASHINGTON — Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, acted as a foreign agent representing the interests of Turkey’s government in exchange for more than $500,000 during last year’s campaign even as he was advising Trump, according to disclosure forms filed this week.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was hired by a prominent Turkish-American with ties to the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has engaged in a widespread political crackdown after surviving a military coup attempt. Flynn was assigned to investigate Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania who was blamed by Erdogan for helping instigate the July putsch.
Flynn signed a contract for the work just three weeks after delivering a fiery speech at the Republican National Convention endorsing Trump and leading “lock her up” chants advocating the imprisonment of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state. Without disclosing his financial interest, Flynn published an op-ed article on Election Day arguing that Turkey was misunderstood and assailing Gulen as “a shady Islamic mullah” and “radical Islamist.”
The contract terminated after the election, when Flynn went on to become Trump’s national security adviser. He was forced to resign after just 24 days when it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and others in the White House about the substance of a telephone conversation he had with Russia’s ambassador.
Flynn registered as a lobbyist last year but did not file papers registering as a foreign agent until Tuesday. A White House official said Thursday that Trump was not aware that Flynn was working for Turkey’s interests during the campaign, but deflected questions about its propriety.
“He was a private citizen at the time,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said. “And when you’re a private citizen, you’re allowed to engage in legal activities. I don’t have anything further on that, but I think there’s nothing nefarious about doing anything that’s legal as long as the proper paperwork is filed.”
Pence, however, seemed less forgiving.
“The first I heard of it,” the vice president said when asked about stories on the matter during an interview on Fox News on Thursday night, “and I think it is an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask General Flynn to resign.”
Democrats have raised concerns about Flynn’s private lobbying since last fall, including his decision to accept a fee reported around $40,000 to attend and speak at a Moscow gala celebration honoring RT, the Russian government-financed, English-language television network viewed in the West as a propaganda organ.
“Lt. Gen. Flynn’s involvement in advising Mr. Trump on matters relating to Turkey or Russia — including attending classified briefings on those matters — could violate the Trump for America, Inc. Code of Ethical Conduct,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote Pence after the November election.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn