Former US national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lobbying firm produced an unfinished documentary last fall to boost Turkey’s image and defame US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen following a failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
The Turkish government accuses Gülen of masterminding the coup attempt, which claimed the lives of more than 240 people and injured a thousand others, while Gülen has repeatedly denied the claim.
The film was produced by the Flynn Intel Group as part of the lobbying efforts of a Turkish businessman named Ekim Alptekin, a supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and head of a Netherlands-based consulting firm called Inovo BV, and chairman of the Turkey-US Business Council, a group that promotes business between the two countries.
While unfinished and not yet made public, the film reportedly involves a scene with Flynn’s business partner BiJan Kian and the head of Turkish military intelligence meeting in a hotel room.
The work done on the documentary by Flynn’s firm reportedly took place while Flynn was campaigning on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump.
The sponsor of the film paid Flynn’s consulting firm over half a million dollars, $530,000, for their lobbying work, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The film and his contract with the Turkish client will likely to be part of the ongoing investigation into Flynn’s business dealings after the former intelligence officer failed to disclose his firm represented Turkish efforts to the federal government until March of this year.
Flynn is under congressional, federal, and military investigation for allegations that he illegally withheld his financial ties to the Kremlin and Turkey, which stood the risk of influencing him while he served in the White House. He resigned from his top post as national security adviser earlier this year after it became known he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his discussions with a top Russian diplomat.
According to David Enders, a former VICE News correspondent hired to work on the project, Flynn Intel Group hired professionals to shoot the documentary and then worked to conceal its role in producing the film.
Enders and Rudi Bakhtiar, a former CNN anchor hired to be the on-camera face for the film, said the disclosure in March about Flynn’s work as a foreign agent came as a shock.
Bakhtiar told The Wall Street Journal that she was misled about the true intentions of the film, which she said was focused on attacking Gülen. She said she thought the work would produce an objective, investigatory documentary about Turkey and Gülen.
For the documentary, Bakhtiar interviewed İsmail Hakki Pekin, a general who once served as head of Turkey’s military intelligence branch, and Nedim Şener, a well-known Turkish journalist.
Bakhtiar said she had little time to prepare and knew little about the Turks she was interviewing and were introduced to by Kian.
In his 20-minute interview, Pekin repeated a contention by top Turkish officials that Gülen was an asset of the Central Intelligence Agency, which protected the Turkish cleric from being extradited.
Pekin also said that he wanted to take part in the documentary because he saw it as a chance to let as many Americans as possible know about the danger posed by Gülen.
Journalist Şener told the journal that he came to Washington because he thought it was important to raise the issue of Gülen with US officials.
Bakhtiar, who was paid $1,200 for the day’s work on the film, said she told Kian that she wanted to go to Turkey to round out the piece.
“I said: ‘I want to get both sides’,” she said. “I’m a journalist. He never said ‘We’re going to make a documentary that’s going to crush Gülen.’ I never would have done it.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, two days before the president-elect named Flynn as his first national security adviser, Alptekin and the Flynn Intel Group ended their contract.