Speed Reads

Things that make you go hmmm

2 Trump campaign aides were dueling for a Turkish lobbying gig during the 2016 campaign

Two of President Trump's former campaign aides were locked in a duel with each other to win a massive lobbying contract with a pair of Turkish businessmen — including one with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin — during the lead-up to the election, Reuters reports.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey met with Turkish businessmen Ekim Alptekin and Sezgin Baran Korkmaz eight days before joining the Trump campaign to pitch the pair on a $10 million contract with him and his wife, Nancye Miller, that would have aimed to discredit a Pennsylvania-based cleric who has been a thorn in the side of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Alptekin had separately agreed to a $600,000 contract with Trump adviser (and later, briefly, national security adviser) Michael Flynn to research the cleric, Fethullah Gulen; that contract is now under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Alptekin was found to have business ties in Russia, including ones directly linked to Putin himself, Politico writes, adding that "the revelation of Russian business ties to the man who hired Flynn threatens to complicate the White House's struggle to escape the shadow of the FBI investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian agents."

In the September 2016 meeting just before joining the campaign, "Miller said she and Woolsey were in a better position than Flynn to influence decision-makers about Gulen's alleged role in the [failed 2016 Turkish] coup, according to Alptekin and two other people familiar with the discussion," Reuters writes. Among Miller and Woolsey's proposed strategies: a plan to loop in Jeff Sessions — now Trump's attorney general — to author an article about Turkey.