Jul 23, 2019

Ex-Michael Flynn business partner convicted for illegal foreign lobbying

Michael Flynn. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

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.

Go deeper

Timeline: Every big move in the Mueller investigation

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

After nearly two years, special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation netted 199 criminal charges, 37 indictments or guilty pleas, and 5 prison sentences.

Driving the news: Mueller will make his much-hyped appearance before the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees on Wednesday, but neither party expects to learn anything new from his testimony, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jul 23, 2019

Read Robert Mueller's opening statement to Congress

Robert Mueller being sworn in. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In his opening statement before the House Judiciary Committee, former special counsel Robert Mueller summarized the top-line findings of his investigation and discussed what topics he would not be able to publicly discuss with Congress — including the actions of Attorney General Barr and the FBI's opening of the Russia investigation.

Safe zone in northern Syria depends on U.S.-Turkey balancing act

U.S. and SDF forces on patrol in Al-Darbasiyah, in northeastern Syria. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

The provisional agreement the U.S. and Turkey announced last week regarding security in northern Syria marks a positive step for the two NATO allies, whose priorities in the Syrian conflict have often diverged.

Why it matters: The proposed safe zone and guarantees to pull the U.S.–backed, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces could help assuage Turkish concerns about a Kurdish insurgency while preserving the counter-ISIS campaign and critical stabilization efforts in northeastern Syria.

Go deeperArrowAug 15, 2019