Speed Reads

flynn investigation

Michael Flynn's firm apparently made an unfinished film targeting an Erdogan critic

Michael Flynn, President Trump's short-tenured national security adviser, has taken the Fifth to avoid handing over personal documents subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, but he has reportedly agreed to turn over some business records demanded by the Senate panel investigating Russia's machinations in the 2016 presidential race. One thing the senators — and a federal grand jury in Virginia, and the FBI — will likely find, The Wall Street Journal reports, is a documentary-style film about Turkey that Flynn's consulting firm worked on last year but never finished. The film apparently makes up the bulk of the $530,000 the Flynn Intel Group was paid by Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman close to Turkey's president.

Alptekin says he hired the Flynn Intel Group to help burnish Turkey's image after a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Erdogan's subsequent crackdown. Erdogan has blamed the coup on a Turkish imam in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen, and Alptekin tells the Journal he envisioned the documentary as "a small, 60 Minutes kind of a thing" to expose America to the purported dangers Gulen poses. The U.S. has so far rebuffed Erdogan's demands for Gulen's extradition.

Bijan Kian, the head of Flynn Intel Group, told the film crew different things, and some of them — including Rudi Bakhtiar, a former CNN anchor, and ex-VICE News correspondent David Enders — say they were badly misled. Bakhtiar told the Journal that it quickly became clear she was working on a hit-piece on Gulen. Enders said Kian did not want his or Flynn's fingerprints on this: "He said: 'We don't want anyone to know the Flynn Intel Group has anything to do with this.'"

The Journal's Dion Nissenbaum has an overview of the documentary:

Alptekin paid the Flynn Intel Group in three installments, saying the money came from his firm, not Turkey's government; with each payment, Flynn's group sent back $40,000 in "consulting fees" that Alptekin insists were really rebates. The last payment was on Nov. 14, two days before Trump named Flynn as his national security adviser. The film was shelved. On Nov. 8, Flynn published an op-ed in The Hill urging the U.S. to extradite Gulen, using an image a PR firm had produced to promote the documentary. In March, after he was pushed out of the White House, Flynn belatedly registered as a foreign agent for his work with Turkey. You can read more at The Wall Street Journal.