A pair of former business associates of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has been indicted on charges related to a 2016 campaign by the Turkish government to lobby for the expulsion of a political rival of Turkey’s president.
Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin, both former Flynn associates, were indicted on charges that they conspired to violate federal lobbying rules, while Alptekin was also charged with making false statements in an FBI interview, the New York Times reported. Kian is an Iranian-American businessman, while Alptekin is a Turkish businessman and close associate of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The indictments were unsealed in Virginia after the case was referred to prosecutors there by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Flynn had worked with the two men on a project to get Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric and rival to President Erdogan who resides in Pennsylvania, extradited out of the United States. Erdogan loyalists see Gulen as responsible for the failed coup attempt against Erdogan in the summer of 2016. The Turkish foreign minister said in a CNN interview this week that the Trump administration is currently working to extradite Gulen.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama Administration, pleaded guilty last December to charges that he lied to FBI agents about his contacts with the Russian government. Flynn, whose sentencing is set for Tuesday, has been cooperating for the last year with the Mueller probe, and a recent sentencing memorandum stated that Flynn has admitted to violating laws against lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.
It is not stated outright in the Times piece, but the implication is that Flynn gave up the other two men as part of his cooperation. Mueller has recommended that Flynn not receive jail time, although the Mueller team and Flynn’s lawyers have argued back and forth in recent weeks over whether or not Flynn was tricked into lying.
Breaking News: 2 former associates of Michael Flynn were indicted as part of an investigation into a secret 2016 lobbying campaign by Turkey https://t.co/aQ55PPrmen— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 17, 2018
Flynn was an adviser and surrogate for Trump during the 2016 campaign and famously led a “lock her up” chant, directed at Hillary Clinton, from the stage at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Named Trump’s first national security advisor, Flynn resigned his post after just 24 days after it was determined that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russians.
Despite his cooperation, Flynn remains a very popular figure among Trump supporters, even campaigning for some Republican candidates during the 2018 election cycle, per the Great Falls Tribune.