The Turkey scandal

There’s so much attention on Russia that you might not have noticed that something’s going on with Turkey:

Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, including his government security forces and several armed individuals, violently charged a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here on Tuesday night in what the police characterized as “a brutal attack.”

The episode was not the first time that Turkish security forces have ignited violence in the American capital. The police and members of Mr. Erdogan’s security team clashed with demonstrators last year outside the Brookings Institution, where Mr. Erdogan was giving a speech. Brookings wrote on its website that his bodyguards had “behaved unacceptably — they roughed up protesters outside the building and tried to drag away ‘undesired’ journalists, an approach typical of the Russians or Chinese.”

It seems that Turkey doesn’t know about this thing called Freedom of Speech:

Video of the incident shows protesters being attacked in what appeared to be three waves as D.C. police officers struggled to regain control. The Anadolu news agency framed the guards’ actions as a response to the presence of ‘‘terrorist’’ sympathizers – apparently a reference to Kurdish activists.

The news agency criticized U.S. police for failing to end the dissent; such protests are largely put down in Turkey.

And, as with much of what happens now, there is a scandalous Trump connection:

The investigation stems from the work Flynn did for Inovo BV, a Dutch company owned by Alptekin, the Turkish businessman. On Aug. 9, Flynn and the Flynn Intel Group signed a contract with Inovo for $600,000 over 90 days to run an influence campaign aimed at discrediting Fethullah Gulen, an reclusive cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and whom Erdogan has accused of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey last summer.

When he was hired by Alptekin, Flynn did not register as a foreign agent, as required by law when an American represents the interests of a foreign government. Only in March did he file a retroactive registration with the Justice Department because his lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, said that “the engagement could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”

Trump campaign officials first became aware of a problem with Flynn’s business dealings in early November. On Nov. 8, the day of the election, Flynn wrote an op-ed in The Hill that advocated improved relations between Turkey and the United States and called Gulen “a shady Islamic mullah.”

“If he were in reality a moderate, he would not be in exile, nor would he excite the animus of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government,” the op-ed said.

And wait there’s more:

According to the report, Flynn declined a request from the Obama administration to approve an operation in the IS stronghold of Raqqa, effectively delaying the military operation. His reasoning wasn’t reported, but Turkey has long opposed U.S. military operations in cooperation with Kurdish forces.

President Erdogan isn’t known as a friend to human rights:

We should expect no substantial discussion of the 150 journalists detained in Turkey on misleading or bogus charges, or the elected politicians from peaceful pro-Kurdish parties who remain behind bars. Also unlikely to be on the agenda: The fate of the 50,000 people swept up on overly broad terrorism charges, or even the more than 100,000 civil servants permanently dismissed with no right of appeal.

This means that Trump likes Erdogan, as he seems to like many dictator-types:

US President Donald Trump’s affinity for authoritarian leaders across the globe has been one of the few constants during his chaotic first few months in office.

From Russian President Vladimir Putin to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Trump has gone out of his way to lavish praise on some of the world’s most notorious strongmen.
As always, Trump makes me proud to be an American.

Interesting point

So, it seems that Michael T. Flynn likes calling up Russia:

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, cultivates close Russian contacts. He has appeared on Russia Today and received a speaking fee from the cable network, which was described in last week’s unclassified intelligence briefing on Russian hacking as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.”

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

It seems the Trump administration has commented on this:

A first Trump official confirmed that Flynn had spoken with Kislyak by phone, but said the calls were before sanctions were announced and didn’t cover that topic. This official later added that Flynn’s initial call was to express condolences to Kislyak after the terrorist killing of the Russian ambassador to Ankara Dec. 19, and that Flynn made a second call Dec. 28 to express condolences for the shoot-down of a Russian plane carrying a choir to Syria. In that second call, Flynn also discussed plans for a Trump-Putin conversation sometime after the inauguration. In addition, a second Trump official said the Dec. 28 call included an invitation from Kislyak for a Trump administration official to visit Kazakhstan for a conference in late January.

Nancy Letourneau makes an interesting point:

But it also reminded me of this from Julian Borger a few days ago:

The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.

It is very likely that the four members of Trump’s team that are referred to include Flynn, Manafort, Page and Cohen. Given that a U.S. official knows that Flynn had telephone contact with the Russian ambassador on Dec. 29th, it appears that the FBI got the warrant approved and has been surveilling these four men as recently as two weeks ago. That indicates that an investigation into the allegations made in the dossier is very much alive and ongoing. What happens to it after January 20th remains to be seen.

It could be that Flynn’s phone was being tapped. If so, we very well might soon know if the Trump official was telling the truth.

Update: It seems the Trump team is backtracking already:

Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Trump’s pick to be national security adviser, did speak to Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak by telephone on Dec. 29, the same day the Obama administration announced measures retaliating against Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign, two Trump transition officials confirm to NPR.

And there were multiple calls:

Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for national security adviser, held five phone calls with Russia’s ambassador to Washington on the day the United States retaliated for Moscow’s interference in the U.S. presidential election, three sources familiar with the matter said.

That’s a lot of calls to set up a conversation.

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