Mueller eyes Flynn's involvement in film about exiled Turkish cleric

  • Robert Mueller is looking into former national security adviser Michael Flynn's involvement in the production of a film about an exiled Turkish cleric.
  • Flynn's consulting firm was tasked with producing the film last year and reportedly did not want anyone to know of its involvement in the project.
  • News of Mueller's latest focus on Flynn comes on the heels of a Thursday New York Times report which indicated that Flynn's team is negotiating or cooperating with Mueller's team. 


The special counsel Robert Mueller is homing in on former national security adviser Michael Flynn's role in producing a documentary about an exiled Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, at the height of the 2016 presidential race, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. 

Mueller is eyeing Flynn as part of his investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and whether members of President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor.

Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser in February after it emerged that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials during the transition period. 

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National security adviser General Michael Flynn delivers a statement daily briefing at the White House in Washington U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn arrives at the Trump Tower for meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump, in New York on November 17, 2016.

(EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Retired United States Army lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn introduces Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump before he delivered a speech at The Union League of Philadelphia on September 7, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Trump spoke about his plans to build up the military if elected. Recent national polls show the presidential race is tightening with two months until the election.

(Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, at podium, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attend a campaign event with veterans at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave., NW, where Trump stated he believes President Obama was born in the United States, September 16, 2016.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (L) yields the briefing room podium to National Security Adviser Michael Flynn February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Flynn said the White House is 'officially putting Iran on notice' for a recent missile test and support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, prepares to testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Current and Future Worldwide Threats,' featuring testimony by he and James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (C) arrives prior to a joint news conference between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn boards Air Force One at West Palm Beach International airport in West Palm Beach, Florida U.S., February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
National security adviser General Michael Flynn arrives to deliver a statement during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington U.S., February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (L) arrives at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: (AFP OUT) White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (R) walks down the West Wing Colonnade following a bilateral meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe February 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump and Abe are expected to discuss many issues, including trade and security ties and will hold a joint press confrence later in the day. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 02: (L-R) SCAD Dramatic writing professor Chris Auer, Producer Sandra Leviton, Executive producer and writer Michael Flynn, Tv literary agent Jeff Greenberg and Literary manager and producer Kaila York speak on stage during the 'Inside the Writers Room' event on Day One of aTVfest 2017 presented by SCAD on February 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD)
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (ret.), National Security Advisor Designate speaks during a conference on the transition of the US Presidency from Barack Obama to Donald Trump at the US Institute Of Peace in Washington DC, January 10, 2017. / AFP / CHRIS KLEPONIS (Photo credit should read CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, U.S. national security advisor, attends a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Trump today mocked protesters who gathered for large demonstrations across the U.S. and the world on Saturday to signal discontent with his leadership, but later offered a more conciliatory tone, saying he recognized such marches as a hallmark of our democracy. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Michael Flynn walks out after a morning worship service on Inauguration day at St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, DC on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (R), talks with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn inside of the inaugural parade reviewing stand in front of the White House on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation's 45th president today. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, White House national security adviser-designate, center, stands in an elevator at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Donald Trump is slated to meet with AT&T Inc.'s top executives on Thursday to discuss the company's proposed $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. The president-elect has said he opposes the deal. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Donald Trump's National Security Adviser Gen. Michael T. Flynn (R) arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (ret.) and National Security Advisor Designate and Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor during a ceremonial passing of authority while participating in a conference on the transition of the US Presidency from Barack Obama to Donald Trump at the US Institute Of Peace in Washington DC, January 10, 2017. / AFP / CHRIS KLEPONIS (Photo credit should read CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Mueller's focus on Flynn has to do primarily with those interactions, as well as his lobbying firm's activities and his failure to register as a foreign agent when the firm began lobbying on behalf of a businessman with ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the latter half of 2016. 

Flynn's firm, Flynn Intel Group, was paid $530,000 in August 2016 by the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, who is also the head of the Dutch consulting firm Inovo. 

Flynn Intel Group was tasked with fomenting dissent inside Turkey and with lobbying the US government to extradite Gulen, who currently resides in Pennsylvania and whom Erdogan believes is responsible for planning last year's attempted coup.

Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr. — who is also a subject of scrutiny in Mueller's probe — are believed to have been offered $15 million to extradite Gulen. 

The documentary Alptekin paid Flynn Intel Group to produce was never completed, but it was meant to focus on the supposed dangers Gulen posed. Alptekin told The Journal in May that he hoped the documentary would be "a small, '60 Minutes' kind of a thing, where these conclusions are brought to the public."

"We thought that might have a good effect," he said. 

Flynn Intel Group did not want anyone to know about its involvement in the film's production, according to David Enders, a former VICE News correspondent who was hired to work on the documentary. He told The Journal that Bijan Kian, a partner at the now-defunct Flynn Intel Group, told him, "We don't want anyone to know the Flynn Intel Group has anything to do with this." 

Sources familiar with the matter told The Journal on Friday that prosecutors have contacted Enders as well as former CNN anchor Rudi Bakhtiar, who was hired to work on the film alongside Enders, to question them about their involvement in the project. 

Kian has also become a focus for Mueller, NBC News reported this week. The special counsel is seeking to gauge what role, if any, Kian played in securing the Inovo contract for Flynn Intel Group.

Prosecutors additionally want to know whether Kian has any information about other lobbying efforts the firm may have undertaken that have not yet been disclosed, and they are also interested in a September 2016 meeting between Kian, Flynn, and the pro-Russia congressman Dana Rohrabacher, according to NBC News.  

Flynn Intel Group was required, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, to register as a foreign agent as soon as it secured the contract with Inovo, but it did not do so until months later. It acknowledged in a March filing — four months after it the contract with Alptekin ended — that its work could have "principally benefited" Turkey.

Friday's revelation about Mueller's focus on Flynn's lobbying work came on the heels of a New York Times report saying that Flynn's defense team has ceased sharing information about the Russia investigation with Trump's lawyers. 

It's common for defense attorneys representing people under investigation to share information with each other about what they've gleaned from prosecutors, according to former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti

Usually, defense attorneys enter into a joint defense agreement, which entails that because each defense team's clients are on the same side, the attorneys' statements to each other are considered privileged information. 

"The fact that Flynn's lawyers aren't sharing information with Trump's lawyers means that they believe it is no longer in Flynn's interest to do so," Mariotti wrote.

The development suggests that Flynn's attorneys are either cooperating with Mueller's team or that they are negotiating a plea deal, and that Flynn does not expect Trump to pardon him.

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