Federal investigators are now interested in the role Bijan Kian, co-founder of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s consulting firm, played in their lobbying work, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The report was based on information from an anonymous individual recently interviewed by the FBI, who said that agents from the criminal division asked as many questions about Kian and his involvement with a lobbying contract carried out by the firm that primarily benefitted the Turkish government as they did about Flynn.
Kian was responsible for securing and carrying out that work for Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, as Reuters and the Associated Press have reported. It netted Flynn Intel Group $530,000. Two other sources with knowledge of the probe told Reuters that investigators were looking at whether the payments Flynn and his firm received from foreign clients were lawful and whether they made the proper disclosures with the federal government to perform this work.
Both men retroactively registered as foreign agents for their Turkey lobbying, which involved producing negative public relations materials about an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for a failed coup attempt last summer.
While this contract, and other payments Flynn received from Russian companies, brought President Donald Trump’s ousted national security adviser to the attention of federal and congressional investigators, as well as the press, Kian has mostly avoided the spotlight until this month.
TPM previously reported that a Washington, D.C. charity Kian co-founded, the Nowruz Commission, served as one point of contact for him, Flynn, and their Turkish client, Ekim Alptekin, who is a member of the board.
Alptekin has told news outlets that he came to know Kian while the Iranian-American businessman was promoting U.S. business interests abroad while serving on the Export-Import bank.
It is not clear if Kian is himself a target of the criminal federal investigation or if investigators are researching him to get a better sense of Flynn Intel Group’s operations, according to the report. He has retained a lawyer, Robert Trout, to handle the burgeoning probe.