Trump administration denies exploring extradition of Erdoğan foe for Turkey

Trump administration denies exploring extradition of Erdoğan foe for Turkey
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Members of the Trump administration are pushing back on a report that the White House was seeking ways to extradite a critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an effort to get Turkey to ease pressure on Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

An NBC News report on Thursday said that the Trump White House had directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI to reexamine a request from Turkey to extradite U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Gülen, who has been in the United States since 1999 and resides in Pennsylvania, is wanted in Turkey over claims he was involved in a failed coup against Erdoğan's government in 2016.

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Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman told Reuters on Friday that the DOJ “has not been involved in nor aware of any discussions” regarding Gülen's extradition. 

A White House official also told Reuters it “has not been involved in any discussions relating the extradition of Fethullah Gulen to the death of Jamal Khashoggi.”

U.S. officials and people briefed on the reported White House requests had told NBC News that career officials at the involved agencies pushed back at the requests.

“At first there were eye rolls, but once they realized it was a serious request, the career guys were furious,” one senior U.S. official involved in the process told NBC.

The U.S. has sought to quell tensions between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which are both key allies, over the killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.

Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2 to obtain papers for his wedding to a Turkish woman, but was killed by a Saudi team that reportedly dismembered his body.

The Saudi government issued several conflicting explanations for his disappearance before acknowledging he was killed inside the consulate.

The CIA has reportedly concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, contradicting denials from the kingdom.

Erdoğan ramped up diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia after the killing for conducting an apparent assassination in Turkey.

The White House announced Thursday that it was sanctioning 17 Saudi officials in relation to the killing, including Saud al-Qahtani, a former top aide to Crown Prince Mohammed, who the Treasury Department says was involved in the “planning and execution” of the operation.

The sanctions mark the United States's most sweeping punishment to date of Saudi officials over the journalist's killing.

Still, President TrumpDonald John TrumpAustralia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israeli capital, won't move embassy Mulvaney will stay on as White House budget chief Trump touts ruling against ObamaCare: ‘Mitch and Nancy’ should pass new health-care law MORE has appeared reluctant to impose any severe punishment on Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder, including resisting calls to lessen or cancel an arms deal with the kingdom worth billions of dollars.