Nick Akerman, a former assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate case, said Friday that former national security adviser Michael Flynn's involvement in an alleged plot to forcibly return a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. to Turkey could warrant conspiracy charges.
In an appearance on MSNBC, Akerman said the alleged extrajudicial plan to whisk Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen back to Turkey could signal an attempt to sidestep the normal extradition process.
"It'd be a conspiracy to defraud the government. I mean, normally under these circumstances, the Turkish government would have to go through an extradition process," he said. "You have to go before a federal judge and submit papers actually showing what the crime is."
Akerman said the alleged plan could violate a federal statute creating an offense of conspiracy to defraud the government — "conspiracy 371." That includes an effort to "interfere or obstruct legitimate Government activity," according to the Justice Department.
Akerman's comments came after The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE is investigating Flynn's involvement in an alleged proposal to illegally return Gulen to Turkey, where he has been accused of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup, in exchange for as much as $15 million.
According to that report, investigators have asked at least four people about a mid-December meeting in New York City, in which Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., purportedly met with representatives of the Turkish government about the plan.
One person who was at that meeting, former CIA Director James Woolsey, who has said he was asked to attend by an associate of Flynn, has described the alleged plot as "a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away," according to The Wall Street Journal.
Flynn has become a key figure in Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election. The former national security adviser resigned from his White House post in February amid revelations that he misled Vice President Pence and other administration officials about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the month before President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE took office.
Since then, however, Flynn has come under scrutiny for performing lobbying work on behalf of Turkish government interests, as well as for allegedly trying to conceal financial ties to Turkey and Russia.