When the news of our Justice Department allegedly being asked to look into a deal whereby exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen might be extradited to appease the Tyrant of Turkey came out, I wrote that such a plan would be a national disgrace unless convincing evidence of serious crimes could be produced. The one curious aspect of the story, however, was the silence from the DoJ regarding the story. NBC News had reported it initially, citing anonymous “Justice Department officials” but wouldn’t provide any names to back the story up. (Which seems to be how the networks handle a significant percentage of stories during the Trump administration.)

Now the DoJ has responded. They’re not offering an explanation because according to their spokesperson, no such request was ever handled. (The Hill)

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 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…

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.

In addition to the DoJ spokeswoman, an anonymous “White House official” also denied the NBC story.

So what’s actually going on here? Somebody is lying or at least bending the truth to the point of breaking. Here are the various possibilities as I see them, not ranked in any particular order of likelihood.

One: The NBC News reporters made up the story out of whole cloth. No matter what you may think of the network, I find this highly unlikely.

Two: Some deep state character inside the DoJ made up the story to cause trouble for Trump, fed it to NBC and they bought it. Conceivable, but also unlikely in my opinion. Why waste your ammunition on a fishing expedition like that?

Three: The story is absolutely true and the DoJ is lying, either at the request of the White House or as a means of trying to cover their own butts. This one also seems unlikely because sooner or later the people handling the request (assuming it happened) can come forward for their fifteen minutes of fame and shoot down the cover story.

Four: This is something that the White House was interested in exploring but Trump never gave the actual order. Instead, he put out some feelers and had some lawyers unofficially look into the possibility of extraditing Gulen, but didn’t didn’t issue an actual instruction to the DoJ. It could also have served as a trial balloon to see how people would react to the idea. And if an order to “explore” the option was never officially given, that leaves room for the DoJ to put out a statement like this and not technically be lying. That one sounds like the most likely scenario to me.

If it was a trial balloon, the President obviously has his answer. This was a horrible idea even before the CIA released their conclusion that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince was behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. And since the story was framed as Trump looking to do Erdogan a favor in exchange for easing up the pressure on the Saudis, the idea looks even worse now.