Nov 15, 2018

White House considers expelling Erdogan enemy to ease pressure on Saudis

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Image

The White House is exploring options for expelling Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016, in hopes that Erdogan lets up pressure on the Saudis over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, NBC News reports.

Between the lines: This is an explosive report — not only that the U.S. would consider expelling Gulen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for almost two decades, but that they would do so to remove pressure on the Saudis even as the kingdom has failed to put forth a credible explanation for Khashoggi's death. It suggests the White House's priority, come what may, is to protect the Saudis and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. U.S. agencies declined to comment to NBC.

Details: Per NBC, Erdogan saw an opportunity after Khashoggi's murder to reissue a longstanding demand — that Gulen be extradited back to Turkey.

  • Erdogan has been at the heart of the international pressure on the Saudis in the weeks since Khashoggi's death, with evidence compiled by Turkey undermining Saudi explanations at every turn.
  • A Turkish official told NBC that they don't see a connection between the two issues: "We want to see action on the end of the United States in terms of the extradition of Gulen. And we're going to continue our investigation on behalf of the Khashoggi case."
  • However, "Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing" Gulen, NBC reports, adding that "career officials at the agencies pushed back on the White House requests."

Turkey has arrested hundreds of people for alleged links to Gulen. That was one of the charges against Andrew Brunson, the U.S. pastor who was at the center of a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Turkey until his release in October.

Go deeper...

Go deeper

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and U.S. ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. Meanwhile, Italy reported its first virus-related death on Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,359 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health

Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.