Trump-Erdogan call led to lengthy quest to avoid Halkbank trial

President Donald Trump assigned his attorney general and Treasury secretary to deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repeated pleas to avoid charges against one of Turkey’s largest banks, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In an April phone call, Trump told Erdogan that William Barr and Steven Mnuchin would handle the issue, the people said. In the months that followed, no action was taken against Halkbank for its alleged involvement in a massive scheme to evade sanctions on Iran. That changed when an undated indictment was unveiled Tuesday — a day after Trump imposed sanctions over Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria.

It marked an unusual intervention by a president to get his top cabinet officials involved in an active federal investigation. It’s not clear whether Trump instructed Barr and Mnuchin to satisfy Erdogan’s pleas or whether the president was simply tired of being asked about it.