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Flynn’s Turkey lobbying ties raise questions over eligibility to receive intelligence briefings

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The position of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has been offered the role of national security adviser in Donald Trump’s White House, in national security briefings that began in summer has been questioned by the US media due to his security consulting company’s ties with a Dutch firm linked to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for providing all-source intelligence support.

US media outlets reported that Flynn promised to sever ties with his company if he returns to government service; however, started to attend intelligence briefings with Trump in August while working for foreign clients.

According to a copy of a Memorandum of Understanding signed on election day and released by House Democrats on Thursday, the Trump transition team, as a condition of receiving government briefing materials, was required to provide a statement to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough that all designated members of the transition team had disclosed their financial interests and did not have any conflicts of interest.

While Trump transition officials did not respond to questions about whether Flynn had made such disclosures, US Congressman Elijah Cummings said the terms of the memorandum raise questions about whether Flynn is even eligible to continue to receive national security briefings at this point.

Speaking to chief investigative correspondent of Yahoo News Michael Isikoff, chief counsel to the Flynn Intel Group Robert Kelley declined to specify the issues for which the firm was hired to lobby Congress on behalf of Innova BV, a firm based in Holland and owned by Ekim Alptekin, an ally of Erdoğan and also chairman of the Turkish American Business Council.

The lobbying disclosure statement filed with the secretary of the Senate on Sept. 30 states only that Flynn’s firm “will advise client on US domestic and foreign policy” and congressional appropriations bills for the State Department.

On Wednesday the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said President Obama had authorized that the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) materials also be provided to Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and “designated” members of Trump’s transition team. The PDB comprises some of the most sensitive intelligence in the US government, beyond the national security briefings Trump received as the Republican nominee.

But White House officials declined to say Thursday whether Flynn — an “executive” member of the Trump transition team and his chief foreign policy adviser during the campaign — was among those so designated. Flynn was not in attendance on Tuesday when Trump received his first PDB briefing at Trump Tower, Isifkoff reported in a story released on Yahoo News.

Flynn wrote an op-ed for Washington-based The Hill on Nov. 8, just hours before Trump was declared president-elect, in which he repeatedly praised Erdoğan and called on the next president of the US to extradite US-based Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen to Turkey since Erdoğan accuses him of masterminding a failed coup in Turkey on July 15.

Turkish authorities claim Gülen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, was the mastermind behind the violent coup attempt that killed over 240 people and injured a thousand others, while Gülen strongly denies any involvement.

The Turkish government and President Erdoğan have designated the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Gülen and operating charities, schools and businesses around the world, as a terrorist organization and have launched a widespread crackdown on suspected members since the failed coup. More than 110,000 have been dismissed from state jobs, close to 73,000 detained and over 32,000 arrested by Turkey over links to Gülen.

While Erdoğan and the Turkish government have demanded Gülen’s extradition from the US and shut down schools linked with the movement, US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have several times said that it is the US courts that will decide on Gülen’s extradition if a case is filed against him with concrete evidence that demonstrates his involvement in a crime.

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