Better late than never
On Tuesday, a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, convicted Bijan Kian on charges that he worked with former business partner Michael Flynn as an illegal Turkish agent in the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign. Flynn was President Trump's top national security aide during the campaign and, briefly, his White House national security adviser, while Kian — whose full name is Bijan Rafiekian — was a top security official on Trump's presidential transition team.
Prosecutors had argued that Turkey secretly paid Kian and Flynn through Dutch intermediary Ekim Alptekin to use their political connections to discredit or even kidnap dissident Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with other lobbying and public relations work. "This isn't some regulatory violation," Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gillis said in his closing arguments Monday. "This is about the Turkish government trying to influence our political system." On Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said "today's verdict should stand as a deterrent to any malign foreign influence that undermines the integrity of our political processes."
The unanimous verdict, handed down after about four hours of jury deliberation, amounts to "a belated courtroom victory for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated the $600,000 lobbying and public relations contract at the heart of the case and then handed the matter off to other federal prosecutors after Flynn's guilty plea to a false-statement charge in 2017," Politico notes. Flynn's sentencing has been on hold, in part to assess his level of cooperation in the Kian case, and prosecutors decided not to call Flynn to testify at the last minute amid a dispute with Flynn's new legal team and the apparent slow-motion implosion of his plea deal.
Kian, 67, faces up to 15 years in jail when he's sentenced Oct. 18, though his lawyers are likely to appeal the conviction.