Ex-CIA head James Woolsey: Mike Flynn discussed plan to remove Erdogan foe

By Daniel Uria  |  March 25, 2017 at 11:03 AM
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March 25 (UPI) -- Former CIA Director James Woolsey said former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed sending a foe of Turkey's government out of the United States.

Woolsey told the Wall Street Journal he attended a meeting between Flynn and top Turkish government ministers in 2016 where they discussed ideas to send Fethullah Gulen from the U.S. back to Turkey without following the extradition process. The Turkish government accuses Gulen, Muslim cleric, to have been behind a failed coup to overthrow Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Woolsey said he entered the meeting in New York on September 19 after Flynn and the Turkish ministers had already begun the conversation, which he said did not include any actual tactics to remove Gulen from his home in the United States.

"What I saw and heard was sort of the end of the conversation -- it's not entirely clear what transpired because of that," he told CNN. "But it looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by one or more of the Americans present at the meeting that we would be able, the United States would be able, through them, to be able to get hold of Gulen, the rival for Turkey's political situation."

He said the group discussed the idea of "a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away." Woolsey added that if specific plans were mentioned he would have spoken up and questioned their legality.

"It seemed to be naive," he said. "I didn't put a lot of credibility in it. This is a country of legal process and a Constitution, and you don't send out folks to haul somebody overseas."

Price Floyd, a spokesman for Flynn, released a statement saying Woolsey's description of the meeting was false.

"The claim made by Mr. Woolsey that General Flynn, or anyone else in attendance, discussed physical removal of Mr. Gulen from the United States during a meeting with Turkish officials in New York is false," the statement said. "No such discussion occurred. Nor did Mr. Woolsey ever inform General Flynn that he had any concerns whatsoever regarding the meeting, either before he chose to attend, or afterwards."

Woolsey described the meeting as "suspicious" and "concerning," although he said he didn't hear enough of what was said before he arrived to make any definitive statements.

"The reason I'm being cautious about how this was worded is because I wasn't there for much of this meeting," he said. "I felt I needed to say something to somebody, but was it a clear plot that they were going to seize him? No."

Woolsey said he attended the meeting at the urging of Bijan Kian, chairman and president of Flynn's consulting firm the Flynn Intel Group. He had agreed to be on the group's advisory board and was offered a consulting fee, but turned it down based on the discussion he heard in the meeting.

On March 2, the Flynn Intel Group filed with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the government of Turkey.

The Flynn Intel Group received $530,000 from Inovo BV, a firm in the Netherlands owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin.

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