Consulting Firm Distances Itself From Flynn’s Partner On Turkey Lobbying

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Carolyn Kaster/AP

As the special counsel’s investigation tasked in part with probing ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Turkey lobbying work grinds away, a Washington, D.C. consulting firm is establishing some distance from Flynn’s former lobbying partner.

Jefferson Waterman International (JWI) has taken down its bio page for Robert Kelley, who served as general counsel for Flynn’s now-defunct consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, and was registered during the 2016 campaign as a lobbyist for the firm’s controversial contract with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin. Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign agent for that contract, acknowledging that his company’s work may have “principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” Alptekin told BuzzFeed last year that he worked primarily with Kelley, however.

Contacted by TPM this week, several employees at JWI expressed uncertainty about why the webpage listing Kelley as a “counselor” with the firm was removed or about whether he still worked there. Responses ranged from “I don’t believe that Bob Kelley’s ever worked at the firm” to “I don’t know where he is.”

Kelley’s since-deleted bio for JWI, accessed via the Internet Archive

Charles Waterman, the firm’s CEO, clarified Thursday that Kelley is not paid for his work for JWI and is “not an exclusive consultant” for the firm. He added that Kelley’s work with Flynn Intel Group was done “on his own,” and that Kelley’s bio page was taken down because JWI “decided it was probably the better thing to do.”

“He’s still a consultant—a loose consultant, let’s call it that,” Waterman told TPM.

“There’s no reason to sever ties but no reason to strengthen them, either,” he added with a low laugh.

Waterman said his firm had not been contacted in relation to the federal probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which includes Flynn Intel Group’s lobbying work. Reached by phone Friday at his home, where he is recovering from knee surgery, Kelley told TPM that he had not been contacted by the special counsel’s team, either.

Kelley described himself as being “full-time” at JWI.

“I’ll be back next week,” he said.

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