I’d thought we put this story behind us a month ago, but a headline tweeted out by the Jerusalem Post raised the same specter once again this morning.
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) December 16, 2018
Are we really still talking about extraditing Fethullah Gulen out of Pennsylvania and turning him over to the Tyrant of Turkey for a virtually assured future of torture and death? Thus far we’re not getting an official comment from the State Department and this is coming from the Turkish Foreign Minister (who may as well be the Minister of Propaganda), so take that as you will. But given the location of the alleged conversation and the fact that President Trump was definitely in Argentina for the G20, it’s not entirely beyond the realm of possibility. (Jerusalem Post)
US President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan that Washington was working on extraditing a US-based Muslim cleric accused of orchestrating a failed Turkish coup in 2016, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday.
“In Argentina, Trump told Erdogan they were working on extraditing Gulen and other people,” Cavusoglu said at a conference in Doha, referring to the G20 summit in Argentina from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1.
This story is worth investigating because we already saw internal rumors back around Thanksgiving that Trump was looking into possible ways to ship Gulen off to Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At the time, the White House denied the story entirely and I ran through a list of possible scenarios to explain it. In the end, I thought it most likely was an idea that had been unofficially floated as a trial balloon and then abandoned.
During that same period, I also pointed out that doing so without a lot more information being given to the public would be a national disgrace. Particularly after the entire debacle surrounding the Khashoggi murder, cutting more sketchy deals with Erdogan right now is the last thing the President needs, particularly if there is no evidence to present supporting Gulen’s guilt.
So how did this news item wind up in the headlines? If the President actually is still interested in such a deal, perhaps to get the remaining hostages who are American citizens out of Turkey, I suppose he might be discussing it. But thinking about how and where the alleged statement came about, there are other possibilities. It’s not difficult to imagine Cavusoglu trying to get a moment alone at the G20 to put a bug in Trump’s ear and ask him yet again about getting hold of Gulen. And given how eager the President seems to be to maintain good relations with Erdogan (as distasteful as that may be), we can picture Trump giving a noncommital response along the lines of, “I’m looking into it.”
If that’s what it was, then Cavusoglu comes away with a good headline to make his boss happy and Trump leaves the conference able to say there’s still nothing official going on. Frankly, if we don’t get some confirmation from State about this, it may wind up being a nothingburger. But if it’s revealed that such a plan is being seriously considered, Trump needs to come clean with the country up front as to what credible evidence has been presented against Gulen and what we’re getting out of the deal before he moves ahead. This is a nasty mud pit he’s getting ready to climb into and wrestling with pigs rarely ends well.