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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Mueller to probe Trump’s former adviser over alleged rendition plot

Michael Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, is under investigation over a plan to deliver Fethullah Gulen to Turkey

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn lasted just 24 days in the position. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn lasted just 24 days in the position. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

Michael Flynn, the first, short-lived national security adviser under Donald Trump, is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller over whether he was involved in an alleged plot to kidnap and render a Muslim cleric from the US to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Under the plan, Mr Flynn, who was fired by the president after just 24 days in the job, and his son, Michael Flynn Jr, were to receive up to $15 million for forcibly removing Fethullah Gulen from his Pennsylvania home and delivering him to the Turkish government.

The alleged plan emerged during the wider investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any collusion by president Trump’s campaign.

Turkey’s strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Mr Gulen of instigating a failed coup in July 2016 that saw more than 300 people die and wants him extradited to Turkey to face trial. Mr Gulen has always denied any role in the coup that was carried out by rogue senior members of the Turkish Armed Forces that styled themselves as the Peace at Home Council.

A spokesman for Mueller’s team declined to comment on the report on Friday.

Flynn is a central figure in Mueller's investigation because of conversations he had with then-Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak last year and because he waited until March to retroactively register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the work he did for a Turkish businessman.

The Journal reported that FBI agents asked at least four people about a December meeting in New York where Mr Flynn and Turkish government representatives discussed removing Mr Gulen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI's inquiries.

The December meeting about Mr Gulen was also reported on Friday by NBC. The group also discussed how to set free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab. Zarrab is in prison in the United States on federal charges that he helped Iran skirt US sanctions, NBC said.

In October Reuters reported that one of Flynn's business associates, former CIA director James Woolsey, pitched a $10 million contract to two Turkish businessmen to help discredit Gulen while Mr Woolsey was an adviser to Trump’s election campaign.

Mr Woolsey was a member of Flynn's firm, the Flynn Intel Group, according to a Justice Department filing by the firm and an archive of the company’s website.

Mr Mueller’s team has also interviewed White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, the highest-level Trump aide known to have spoken with investigators, CNN reported on Thursday.