Special counsel on Russia probe expanding scope, to include Flynn’s Turkey ties
Robert Mueller may also expand his inquiry to investigate the roles of the attorney general and deputy attorney general in the firing of James Comey as FBI director.world Updated: Jun 03, 2017 16:11 IST
Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump election campaign and Russia, is expanding his probe to assume control of a grand jury investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, sources said.
The move means Mueller’s politically charged inquiry will now look into Flynn’s paid work as a lobbyist for a Turkish businessman in 2016, in addition to contacts between Russian officials and Flynn and other Trump associates during and after the November 8 presidential election.
Federal prosecutors in Virginia are investigating a deal between Flynn and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin as part of a grand jury criminal probe, according to a subpoena seen by Reuters.
Alptekin’s company, Netherlands-based Inovo BV, paid Flynn’s consultancy $530,000 between September and November to produce a documentary and research on Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric living in the United States. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan blames Gulen for a failed coup last July. Gulen has denied any role in the coup and dismisses Turkey’s allegations that he heads a terrorist organisation.
Alptekin, an ally of Erdogan, told Reuters he hired Flynn to provide research on how Gulen is “poisoning the atmosphere” between Turkey and the United States.
Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to questions about Flynn’s work for Inovo or Mueller’s investigation. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.
Alptekin declined to comment when asked about the investigation into Flynn and whether he or anyone he knows has been subpoenaed.
Mueller has also taken over a separate criminal probe involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, sources said. He may further expand his inquiry to investigate the roles of attorney general Jeff Sessions and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein in the firing of James Comey as FBI director.
Rosenstein had appointed Mueller, a former FBI director, on May 17 to oversee an investigation into any links or collusion between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. Mueller was also given the authority to pursue “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”.
Some members of Congress have asked the justice department to define the scope of Mueller’s inquiry.
Trump, who has said there was no coordination between his campaign and Russia, has decried the investigation as a “witch hunt.”