Documents recently filed by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn detail the work his consulting firm was doing that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey” while he was serving as a top Donald Trump campaign adviser, and that continued after he was named the designated national security adviser to the President-elect.
Between August and December 2016, Flynn Intel Group was paid $530,000 by Inovo BV, a Dutch firm run by a Turkish businessman, according to Flynn’s filings last Tuesday under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The FARA filings show that Flynn held meetings with senior Turkish officials, and that his firm did research and produced promotional material for Inovo while he working for the Trump campaign and sitting in on classified briefings. Flynn Intel Group’s final payment to contractors working on the Inovo project came in December, almost a month after Trump named Flynn to serve as national security adviser.
The White House has framed Flynn’s lobbying work a non-issue, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer calling it a “personal matter, a business matter.” Top administration officials were directly notified twice about the lobbying, however. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) warned Vice President Mike Pence in a November letter that Flynn’s company was “hired by a foreign company to lobby for Turkish interests,” while Flynn’s lawyer informed White House counsel Don McGahn about the firm’s work during the transition.
Below is a timeline of the work Flynn and his firm were doing for Inovo in the heat of the 2016 campaign and into Donald Trump’s transition to the presidency.
Aug. 9, 2016: Seven months after Flynn became an adviser to the Trump campaign, the Flynn Intel Group entered into a contract with Inovo owner Ekim Alptekin. Flynn Intel’s task was to conduct research on Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused of orchestrating a failed coup against him last year (the firm also pressured U.S. officials to take action against Gülen as part of this work). Flynn’s team would conduct research, contract a PR team and check in with Inovo weekly to discuss progress.
Sep. 15, 2016: Flynn Intel Group’s general counsel, Robert Kelley, filed a lobbying disclosure report with Congress. FARA dictates that U.S. firms that do lobbying work on behalf of a foreign corporate client are covered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and don’t need to register separately under FARA. Flynn Intel “concluded” that its work was covered under these provisions, according to the company’s subsequent FARA filings.
Sep. 19, 2016: Alptekin and Flynn Intel Group met with the Turkish ministers of foreign affairs and energy so that the firm could better understand “the political climate in Turkey at the time,” according to the FARA documents. The Associated Press reported that this discussion with happened at an undisclosed hotel in New York during the United Nations General Assembly.
October 2016: Flynn Intel partner Bijan Rafiekian met twice on undisclosed dates in October with Miles Taylor, National Security Adviser to the House Committee on Homeland Security, according to the filings. Those meetings took place at Taylor’s office and at Flynn Intel’s Alexandria, Virginia office. An anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press that in one of the meetings, the Homeland Security Committee representative rejected pressure from the firm to have that panel investigate Gülen.
Oct. 4, 2016: FARA filings show Flynn Intel made its first consulting payment to retired FBI agent Brian McCauley.
Oct. 18, 2016: McCauley found himself at the center of a controversy involving Hillary Clinton’s private emails. In emails released by the FBI, an agent initially offered a State Department official a “quid pro quo” not to classify a particular Clinton email related to the Benghazi attacks in exchange for restoring two spots for the FBI at the Baghdad embassy. McCauley identified himself as the FBI official who made the offer, but said he retracted it as soon as he realized the email in question had to do with Benghazi.
McCauley ultimately received a total of $28,000 from Flynn’s company through early December.
Nov. 8, 2016: On Election Day, Flynn published an op-ed in The Hill calling Gülen a “radical Islamist” who should be extradited to his home country, as the Turkish government has requested. That article was “based” on the Flynn Intel Group’s research for Inovo and a draft was submitted to the company ahead of publication, according to the firm’s FARA filings. But the firm denies that Inovo, Turkey or any other entity asked Flynn to write it.
After Flynn’s FARA filings were made public last week, The Hill added an editor’s note saying that neither “Flynn nor his representatives disclosed” his work for Inovo when he submitted the essay.
Nov. 14, 2016: Flynn Intel receives its final payment from Inovo for $145,000.
Nov. 17, 2016: Trump names Flynn as his national security adviser, later releasing a statement saying his intelligence expertise “will be an invaluable asset to me and my administration.”
Mid-November 2016: According to the FARA filings, Flynn disbanded his firm and closed its sole office on an undisclosed date soon after his role in the Trump White House was announced.
Dec. 1, 2016: Flynn Intel files a final public disclosure report terminating its registration as a lobbyist for Inovo.
Dec. 16. 2016: Flynn Intel makes its final payment on the Inovo project: $7,500 to White Canvas Group, a firm providing open source Internet consulting services.
The payment chart shows that Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, was also a paid staffer on the project through November. The younger Flynn was removed from the Trump transition team in early December after using his Twitter account to denigrate Islam and promote the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.
March 7, 2017: Flynn Intel retroactively registers with FARA, saying that “further review” and the desire to “eliminate any potential doubt” caused the firm to determine its LDA registration was insufficient. “Because of the subject matter of the engagement, Flynn Intel Group’s work for Inovo could be construed to have principally benefitted the Republic of Turkey,” the filing reads.
Read the full supplemental statement to the FARA filing below.