A Thursday report from The New York Times claimed that Donald Trump interfered with a criminal probe of the Turkish bank Halkbank after being pressured by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The decision allegedly stems from a Turkish influence operation in Washington that involved former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the U.S. leader’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump lobbyist Brian D. Ballard.
Erdogan supposedly pressured Trump for months to stop the probe into the state-owned Turkish bank, which was accused of sending billions of dollars in cash and gold to Iran — a violation of U.S. sanctions law. The investigation reportedly put Erdogan’s family and political party in danger, and eventually, the Trump administration — via Attorney General William Barr — offered a settlement that would allow the bank to pay a fine instead of being indicted.
“In addition, the Justice Department would agree to end investigations and criminal cases involving Turkish and bank officials who were allied with Mr. Erdogan and suspected of participating in the sanctions-busting scheme,” the report read.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, was reportedly “outraged” at the proposal and claimed that the Trump administration had previously attempted to thwart the Halkbank investigation.
According to The New York Times, Erdogan’s purported sway over the president has drawn scrutiny for years, and the handling of the Halkbank case drew particular concern from senior White House officials at the time.
“Former White House officials said they came to fear that the president was open to swaying the criminal justice system to advance a transactional and ill-defined agenda of his own,” the publication claimed.
The outlet also noted that Trump’s tax returns suggested he received at least $2.6 million in net income from Turkish business operations from 2015 through 2018.
Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said that Barr was supportive of the decision to indict the bank last fall.
“The attorney general instructed S.D.N.Y. to move ahead with charges and approved the charges brought,” she said.
The lobbying campaign to influence the White House allegedly began before Trump took office.
As The Inquisitr reported, Trump previously faced scrutiny for caving to Turkey for his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria last year. The move was criticized for allowing a Turkish invasion of the Kurdish fighters who were fighting Islamic State in the region. The withdrawal of American forces reportedly came after a phone call between Trump and Erdogan.