Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, reportedly discussed ways to take a man wanted by the Turkish government out of the United States without going through the legal extradition process, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The conversation, which took place during the presidential race while Flynn was serving as an unpaid adviser to Trump, centered around Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The Turkish government has long wanted to take custody of Gulen, 75, who has been exiled in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Among other things, Turkey blames him for orchestrating the deadly and unsuccessful military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year. The country has pressed the U.S. for his extradition.
The Journal report cites former CIA Director James Woolsey, who attended the meeting with Flynn and high-level Turkish officials, and others with details on what happened. Woolsey and the sources said the ideas that were discussed for dealing with Gulen were hypothetical.
However, one plan was “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away,” Woolsey told the Journal. He said he had walked into the middle of the conversation and reportedly “found the topic startling and the actions being discussed possibly illegal.”
A spokesman for Flynn on Friday pushed back on the accusation and the Wall Street Journal report.
"The claim made by Mr. Woolsey that General Flynn, or anyone else in attendance, discussed physical removal of Mr. Gulen from the United States during a meeting with Turkish officials in New York is false. No such discussion occurred. Nor did Mr. Woolsey ever inform General Flynn that he had any concerns whatsoever regarding the meeting, either before he chose to attend, or afterwards," Price Floyd said in an emailed statement to The Hill.
Earlier this month, Flynn filed paperwork with the Justice Department retroactively disclosing work he did last year that may have benefited the government of Turkey.
From August through mid-November, the Flynn Intel Group received $530,000 from a Dutch consulting firm run by a Turkish businessman, according to the disclosure forms. Flynn shut down his firm in November.
The filings, signed by Flynn himself, say the three-month contract included conducting “investigative research” and retaining “an experienced filming and production crew in order to develop a short film piece on the results of its investigation, and a public affairs firm to utilize for public affairs as needed.”
The documentary, which focused on Gulen, was reportedly never finished or distributed.
On Sept. 19, Flynn’s firm met with a “group of government officials from Turkey for the purpose of understanding better the political climate in Turkey at the time, as background for the project.”
It was on that day that Flynn made the suggestion to take Gulen to Turkey from the United States, the Journal article says. One of the officials in the meeting was Erdogan’s son-in-law, disclosure forms reveal.
In November, Flynn penned an op-ed article in The Hill that called Gulen a “radical Islamist” who “portrays himself as a moderate.” Justice Department forms say the op-ed came from the research he did for the consulting firm.
Flynn was fired from his White House post last month for allegedly misleading Vice President Pence and other senior officials about his communications with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. after the presidential election.
Flynn also made contradictory statements to FBI investigators about whether he discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, according to The Washington Post.
Updated at 5:33 p.m.