Bijan Kian and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin are being indicted in federal court in connection with the Russian collusion probe being led by Robert Mueller. Kian is a former business partner of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Flynn’s former partner indicted
Kian and Alptekin are suspected of conspiring to lobby the U.S. government in order to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, an influential dissident of the current regime in Turkey. The Washington Post reports:
Bijan Kian made his first appearance in Alexandria federal court Monday morning. According to the indictment, Kian conspired with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin to illegally lobby U.S. government officials and influence public opinion in the U.S. against Gulen.
Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin is accused of directing and funding Kian and Flynn’s work, and then lying in U.S. filings about his role. He is charged with the same crimes as Kian, as well as making false statements, but he remains in Turkey.
When Michael Flynn was indicted by Robert Mueller, it was rumored that he was assisting on a case related to Turkey. Now we know it’s likely this case. (RELATED: Report Suggests Michael Flynn Is Helping Prosecutors In Turkish Lobbying Probe.)
Mueller’s sentencing memorandum noted that Michael Flynn assisted with three investigations: the Mueller probe, a matter that is entirely redacted and not characterized in any way, and a redacted “criminal investigation” (my guess is it’s this one). https://t.co/sNqLRYW8xN
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) December 17, 2018
Flynn’s cooperation in this case is part of the reason he was able to avoid jail time for his alleged crime of lying to congressional investigators. (RELATED: Mueller Recommends No Jail Time For Michael Flynn, Who Provided ‘Substantial Assistance’ To Russia Probe.)
The New York Times notes how Mueller’s ongoing probe relates to the indictments:
The indictment is further evidence of a broad crackdown on unregistered foreign lobbying growing from the inquiry by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who has investigated foreign flows of money from Ukraine, Turkey and other countries designed to manipulate decision-making in Washington. Mr. Mueller referred the Turkey case to prosecutors in Northern Virginia earlier this year.
Nothing to do with Russia
This latest indictment, which is a direct product of the Mueller probe, has nothing whatsoever to do with Russian collusion. That’s been the trend of a string of indictments and prison sentences stemming from the investigation. Michael Flynn is facing legal trouble for allegedly ‘lying’ to the FBI. Michael Cohen, the President’s former lawyer, was sentenced to jail for lying to congressional officials and tax evasion. (RELATED: Trump Responds to Michael Cohen’s Sentence.) Neither has a thing to do with Russia.
Interfering with foreign policy?
This indictment will likely interfere with the U.S.-Turkey relationship, which, with Turkey being a member of NATO, is seen as crucial to American interests. Before this indictment was revealed, it was reported that the Trump administration was seriously considering extraditing Gulen to Turkey, where he’ll probably be indefinitely jailed, if not harmed.
Turkey was also responsible for revealing the alleged Saudi-directed killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was apparently killed in an embassy in Istanbul. Trump is refusing to sever the close ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia despite intelligence briefings stating that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, directed the killings.
These latest indictments, which stem exclusively from the Mueller probe, will likely complicate what is already seen as a shaky international relationship.