White House Says ‘Nothing Nefarious’ About Flynn’s Turkey Lobbying
White House has come to the rescue of Gen. Michael T. Flynn after revelations that he worked as a foreign agent for Turkey and submitted necessary paperwork 7 months late.
Spokesman Sean Spicer said during a daily press briefing that lobbying for Turkey was what Mr. Flynn “did for a living.” He recalled President Donald J. Trump’s earlier statement that talking to foreign individuals “is part of your job.”
When reminded that Mr. Flynn was compensated for the work he did for Turkey, Mr. Spicer said he was not being compensated as part of the transition and that he was a private citizen. “And when you’re a private citizen, you’re allowed to engage in legal activities,” Mr. Spicer added.
Mr. Flynn was the shortest-lived national security adviser at the White House and admitted on Tuesday that his firm might have helped benefit Turkey for his research on U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his activities in the country. Mr. Flynn was paid $530,000 for his efforts.
Flynn Intel Group, a group founded by Mr. Flynn, submitted a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) on Tuesday “to eliminate any potential doubt” since his work on Mr. Gulen “could be construed to have principally benefitted the Republic of Turkey.” The cleric’s extradition is sought by the Turkish government.
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Mr. Flynn started working as a foreign agent for Turkey back in August but did not submit the necessary paperwork until Tuesday. At the time he was paid by a Turkish businessman close to the Turkish government, Mr. Flynn was a major campaign surrogate for Mr. Trump and sat in classified national security briefings.
Mr. Flynn even met with a group of Turkish officials 2 months before the elections, including foreign and energy ministers, and wrote a propaganda piece on The Hill on Election Day.
Mr. Spicer said he thinks “there’s nothing nefarious about doing anything legal” as long as the proper paperwork is filed. In Mr. Flynn case, it was not.
Asked if Mr. Trump was aware that Mr. Flynn was a foreign agent when asked to be the national security adviser, Mr. Spicer said he doesn’t believe that that was known.
“I don’t know what he discussed [with Mr. Trump] prior to being appointed in terms of his background, his resume, his client base,” Mr. Spicer said.
Vice President Mike Pence said it was the first time he heard about Mr. Flynn’s lobbying for the Turkish government and that this affirmed it was the right decision to ask for his resignation. “I think it is an affirmation of the President’s decision to ask General Flynn to resign,” Pence told Fox News on Thursday.
Despite Mr. Pence’s statement (which he made twice in 30 seconds) that it was the first time he heard about Mr. Flynn’s lobbying activities, Rep. Elijah Cummings sent a letter to the vice president on Nov. 18 last year, warning against conflicts of interest since Mr. Flynn was the national security adviser-designate.
Mr. Cummings, who is also the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requested information from Mr. Pence about the “apparent conflicts of interest” of Mr. Flynn. The retired general was vice chairman of the Trump transition team.
Mr. Cummings said in the letter that Mr. Trump’s top national security advisor’s firm is reportedly being paid to lobby the U.S. government by a close ally of Turkey’s president.
“It is unclear how Lt. Gen. Flynn was reportedly allowed into intelligence briefings during the campaign despite these apparent conflicts of interest,” Mr. Cummings wrote.
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