Oct 10, 2019

Report: Trump pressed Rex Tillerson on Rudy Giuliani client

Rex Tillerson looks at Trump after a 9/11 memorial service in 2017. Photo: Brendan Smiaowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump pressed former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to "help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader" in 2017, which Tillerson reportedly refused and described as illegal, Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: Trump is currently facing an impeachment inquiry that grew from a whistleblower report on his interactions with another foreign leader, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Between the lines: The dismissal of gold trader Reza Zarrab’s case was a high priority for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan until the trader "agreed to cooperate" with New York prosecutors, per Bloomberg.

  • Zarrab was also a client of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the time — and part of the president's request included asking Tillerson to speak with Giuliani.
  • Tillerson reportedly refused Trump's request on the grounds that it would interfere in an ongoing investigation against Zarrab "on charges of evading U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program," Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: This week, the president received swift bipartisan backlash after withdrawing U.S. forces from northern Syria where Turkish troops are expected to advance. Trump's announcement took place after a phone call with Erdoğan.

  • Sanctions against Turkey are already on the table. Erdoğan said on Wednesday the country had already launched its offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters and Islamic State operatives in northern Syria.

Go deeper

Report: Sen. Lindsey Graham called U.S. ally Kurds a "threat" in August phone call

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — one of the senators to draft sanctions against Turkey for its attack on Kurdish forces in northern Syria — reportedly described the "YPG Kurds" as a "threat" in an August phone call with a man he believed to be Turkey's defense minister, Politico reports.

The big picture: The YPG, with U.S. support, helped drive the Islamic State from northern Syria and Iraq. But Turkey has long wanted to attack the YPG, which it declared a terrorist organization. President Trump's decision late Sunday to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and leave the YPG exposed to attack from Turkey has garnered bipartisan backlash and angered his most ardent Republican allies in Congress.

Go deeperArrowOct 10, 2019

Turkish bank tied to Giuliani client indicted in money laundering scheme

Reza Zarrab. Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

A Turkish bank known as Halkbank has been charged in a 6-count indictment for "fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offenses related to the bank’s participation in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran," federal prosecutors in New York announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Bloomberg reported last week that in 2017, President Trump pressed former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help convince the Justice Department to drop a sanctions evasion case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader named Reza Zarrab — a client of Rudy Giuliani's whose case was a high priority for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Zarrab later pleaded guilty and testified against the CEO of Halkbank, also alleging that "Erdogan knew of and supported the laundering effort on behalf of Iran."

Go deeperArrowOct 15, 2019

Trump confirms Turkey's Erdoğan will visit White House next week

Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodğan has accepted his invitation to visit the White House on Nov. 13.

"Just had a very good call with President Erdogan of Turkey. He informed me that they have captured numerous ISIS fighters that were reported to have escaped during the conflict – including a wife and sister of terrorist killer al Baghdadi. Also talked about their Border with Syria, the eradication of terrorism, the ending of hostilities with the Kurds, and many other topics. Look forward to seeing President Erdogan next Wednesday, November 13th at the White House!"
Go deeperArrowNov 6, 2019