U.S. News


Trump's Former National Security Adviser Files As Foreign Agent

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's firm filed the paperwork for work conducted between August and November 2016.
Posted at 9:33 PM, Mar 09, 2017

Despite his firing last month, President Trump's former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has raised more questions for White House press secretary Sean Spicer to answer.

"Was the president aware that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when he appointed him to be the national security adviser?" Fox News correspondent John Roberts asked Spicer at a press briefing Thursday.

Spicer responded, "I don't believe that that was known."

On Wednesday, several outlets reported Flynn's firm registered him as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice for work that "could be construed to have principally benefitted the Republic of Turkey."

Though Flynn's firm's lobbying for Inovo BV was previously known and drew concerns since he was getting classified intelligence briefings with the Trump campaign, the most recent filing provides new insight into Flynn's contacts.

In August 2016, Flynn Intel Group Inc. was retained by the Netherlands-based consulting firm Inovo BV for research into Fethullah Gülen and his associations with U.S. charter schools. It was paid $530,000 for its work. 

According to the filings, which are available online through the Department of Justice, Inovo BV hired Flynn's firm to work on a project that "focused on improving U.S. business organizations' confidence regarding doing business in Turkey." The information would potentially be shared with third parties.

Gülen's the former Turkish Muslim cleric who is living in Pennsylvania. The Turkish government blames him for last summer's failed coup and is seeking his extradition.

Flynn, at the invitation of Inovo's founder, met with Turkish officials including the ministers of foreign affairs and energy in New York in September. The meeting, as described in the filings, was to provide a better understanding of Turkey's political climate "as background for the project."

The filings state Flynn Intel Group's work with Inovo ended Nov. 15, 2016. It shut down later that month after President Trump tapped Flynn to be his national security adviser.

The filings say to the best of the firm's knowledge, the information wasn't shared with third parties — like, say, the Turkish government. But to play it safe, it decided to file the necessary paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Flynn Intel Group Inc. registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act in September 2016 after it was retained.

Flynn wrote an op-ed published on Election Day that said the U.S. "should not provide [Gülen] safe haven." Inovo didn't direct Flynn to write the article, but it did get a copy ahead of its publication, according to the filings.

The filings state Flynn only made "technical edits" to the article "based on feedback from Inovo." The firm doesn't believe Inovo shared information regarding the op-ed with the Turkish government.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Inovo's founder, Ekim Alptekin, called the foreign agent filing "flawed." He also said Flynn "never engaged in lobbying work for me or my firm. And I never lobbied or contracted lobbyist on behalf of the Turkish Government."

The fillings come in the wake of numerous reports that Trump and members of his team — including Flynn — didn't disclose meetings with Russian officials during the campaign and the presidential transition

Spicer said of Flynn on Thursday: "He wasn't being compensated as part of the transition as far as I am aware, and so he was a private citizen at the time. ... There's nothing nefarious about doing anything that's legal as long as the proper paperwork is filed."