Special counsel Mueller expands investigation around Michael Flynn

Special counsel Robert Mueller is assuming control of a separate criminal investigation involving Michael Flynn. From Reuters:

The move means Mueller’s politically charged inquiry will now look into Flynn’s paid work as a lobbyist for a Turkish businessman in 2016, in addition to contacts between Russian officials and Flynn and other Trump associates during and after the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Federal prosecutors in Virginia are investigating a deal between Flynn and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin as part of a grand jury criminal probe, according to a subpoena seen by Reuters.

Alptekin’s company, Netherlands-based Inovo BV, paid Flynn’s consultancy $530,000 between September and November to produce a documentary and research on Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric living in the United States. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan blames Gulen for a failed coup last July.

Alptekin, an ally of Erdogan, told Reuters he hired Flynn to provide research on how Gulen is “poisoning the atmosphere” between Turkey and the United States.

The underlying story here is that Flynn was hired to do this work by Alptekin/Inovo but did not register as a foreign agent. That’s potentially a problem since the work, which included 75 pages of research, an unfinished documentary and a commentary published on election day, all benefitted Turkey’s government. In March, Flynn registered himself, retroactively, as a foreign agent. From the NY Times:

Michael T. Flynn, who went from the campaign trail to the White House as President Trump’s first national security adviser, filed papers this week acknowledging that he worked as a foreign agent last year representing the interests of the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States…

While he did not work directly for the Turkish government, the firm that hired him, Inovo, is owned by a Turkish-American businessman with links to leaders in Ankara and asked him to work on an issue important to the government.

For the record, Flynn claims he wrote the commentary on his own and Alptekin has said he didn’t know of it in advance. The fact that Mueller is wrapping this criminal investigation into his ongoing investigation of Russian meddling in the election suggests Flynn remains a central figure in that investigation.