Flynn Intel Group, the lobbying firm owned by short-lived national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, has disclosed new documents to the Justice Department in an attempt to set the record straight concerning its controversial work last year for an obscure company with ties to the Turkish government, work that was performed while Flynn was serving as a top adviser to the Trump campaign.
Michael T. Flynn
Inovo BV, a privately-owned Dutch business consultancy services company, hired FIG in September for lobbying work to advise the company on U.S. domestic and foreign policy. Those lobbying activities continued after the U.S. election and terminated in late November, at which time Flynn was working as part of Trump’s transition team.
Inovo, which was founded in 2005, is owned by Turkish businessman Kamil Ekim Alptekin, who has ties to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and also currently serves as chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council, a non-profit unit of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board whose members are picked by that country’s general assembly and economic minister.
Flynn on election day penned an editorial in Washington political tabloid The Hill, where he expressed the need for the U.S. to support Erdogan’s government, and called for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric living in the U.S. who Turkish government officials believe was behind the attempted 2016 military coup to remove Erdogan from power. Gulen, who has lived in the U.S. since 1999, has denied involvement in the failed coup. The editorial did not disclose that Flynn’s consulting firm had been retained by Alptekin’s company.
Erdogan, whose government has been accused of authoritarian tendencies, has faced repeated allegations of maintaining financial ties to terrorist groups such as ISIS. Turkey, which opposes the Assad-led government in Syria and whose relations with Russia and Iran have soured amid its role in Syria’s civil war, has lent support to Syrian rebel groups such as The Army of Conquest, which allegedly bears ties to al-Qaeda-linked group Al-Nusra Front, which also allegedly cooperates with ISIS. Erdogan stirred more controversy in February when, speaking with Arabic news station Al Arabiya, said he doesn’t consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, but rather, an “ideological organization.”
Turkey’s ties to Inovo BV were first reported in November by the D.C.-based news site the Daily Caller. Flynn Intel Group had disclosed via lobbying registration documents in September that it was working for Inovo, but never registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. Writing for the Huffington Post, David L. Phillips, a Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, noted that Flynn had “violated U.S. law” if he knew about Alptekin’s ties to the Turkish government but failed to register FIG’s work for Inovo under the FARA act.
Finally registering the work in March, Flynn Intel Group stated that Inovo last year had represented a private company in Israel that sought to export natural gas to Turkey. Inovo tapped FIG in September for consulting and investigative research help so the company could better advise its client regarding Turkish business and investment opportunities, according to Foreign Agents Registration Act documents.
FIG in FARA documents stated that it “does not know whether or the extent to which the Republic of Turkey was involved” with FIG’s retention by Inovo for the project, but “is aware that Mr. Alptekin consulted with officials of the Republic of Turkey regarding potential work by Flynn Intel Group,” though Inovo “has not received, directly or indirectly, funds or financial support from any government during the course of its engagement of Flynn Intel Group Inc., including the Republic of Turkey.”
The three-month project called for FIG to “activate its investigative laboratory comprised of its most senior principals,” which, according to FARA documents, included “former Director of United States Central Intelligence Agency, former director of the United States Defense Intelligence Agency, former chairman of the Audit Committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, former Director of Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former Special Operations (Green Beret) investigator and intelligence officer, former Deputy Assistant Director of Federal Bureau of Investigations of the United States, former senior legal counsel to the United States Senate Committee, two senior former FBI specialist investigators, chairman of the Asymmetric Institute of the Department of Military Studies at Johns Hopkins University and the head of Flynn Intel Group’s Special Operations Cyber Force.”
The agreement also called for hiring a filming and production crew for the purpose of developing a short film on the results of FIG’s work. FIG also held weekly calls with Inovo to report its progress and even met with Turkish officials in New York on September 19 — officials who were introduced to the lobbying firm by Alptekin.
Flynn Intel Group’s work for Inovo netted the firm $535,000.
Separate FARA documents filed in March also show that SGR LLC Government Relations and Lobbying had been hired as a subcontractor for FIG’s Group’s work for Inovo BV, to perform public affairs work as a means of encouraging and strengthening relations between the governments and business communities of the U.S., Turkey and Europe.
SGR’s work for FIG, which began in late September and ran until December, included research and analysis of the U.S. political environment, media monitoring and outreach to journalists and policy-makers on national security and education issues.
SGR received payments from FIG last year totaling approximately $30,000.
The Hill in March retroactively appended Flynn’s November editorial to reflect the fact that he had not disclosed his consulting firm was representing a client with ties to matters discussed in the editorial.
Alptekin has continued to deny that Inovo BV is linked to the Turkish government.
Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, served as national security adviser for 24 days before resigning on February 13 after it was revealed that he misled White House officials regarding conversations he’d had with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey I. Kislyak. On at least one occasion, that communication involved the topic of the recent sanctions the U.S. had levied against Russia for interfering with the 2016 election.
U.S. Army lieutenant general H.R. McMaster in February was tapped to succeed Flynn in the national security adviser post.