Ex-Michael Flynn business partner convicted for illegal foreign lobbying
Bijan Rafiekan, a former business partner of ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and a member of the Trump transition team, was found guilty Tuesday of acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Turkish government and lying about it to the Justice Department.
Why it matters: Rafiekan's prosecution was one of 11 cases transferred by special counsel Robert Mueller to other jurisdictions over the course of his investigation. Flynn, who has been cooperating with prosecutors since December 2017, was enlisted to testify about Rafiekan's role in hiding Flynn Intel Group's illegal lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government. The agreement fell apart earlier this month, however, as a result of a dispute between prosecutors and Flynn's new attorneys, per Politico.
- As part of Flynn pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his Russian contacts, he was not charged with illegally acting as a foreign agent for Turkey. However, Flynn was part of a scheme to build public U.S. support for extraditing dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen, a sworn enemy of President Erdogan accused by the government of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.
- In 2016, Flynn wrote an op-ed in The Hill criticizing Gulen as a "radical Islamist" and "shady Islamic mullah." The Wall Street Journal later reported that Flynn and his son twice met with Turkish representatives to discuss kidnapping Gulen and forcibly extraditing him to Turkey.
The big picture: Rafiekan's case is part of a broader Justice Department crackdown on violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, especially in the wake of the Mueller investigation.