- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2017

Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, met with top Turkish officials last year and allegedly discussed ways to hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric accused of orchestrating the unsuccessful coup that nearly toppled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan months earlier, former CIA Director James Woolsey said Friday.

The discussion allegedly unfolded during a September 2016 meeting in New York attended by individuals including senior officials from Ankara and Mr. Flynn, a retired three-star Army general who served as one of Mr. Trump’s premiere consultants prior to his resignation last month as White House national security advisor, Mr. Woolsey told reporters Friday.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal this week, Mr. Woolsey said he arrived late to the Sept. 19 meeting just in time for a discussion centered around Mr. Gulen, a foe of the Erdogan regime currently living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

Attendees were discussing “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away,” Mr. Woolsey told the newspaper.

“What I saw and heard was sort of the end of the conversation — it’s not entirely clear what transpired because of that,” Mr. Woolsey told CNN following publication of the Journal report Friday evening. “But it looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by one or more of the Americans present at the meeting that we would be able, the United States would be able, through them, to be able to get hold of Gulen, the rival for Turkey’s political situation.”

Mr. Flynn attended the meeting as a representative of his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, the Journal reported. He held an active role advising Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign at the time, however, and was named White House national security adviser within days of Mr. Trump’s November 2016 election. He resigned from that role last month amid swelling concerns involving his conversations and connections with foreign entities.

More recently, the Flynn Intel Group filed paperwork with the Department of Justice on March 2 retroactively registering the former presidential advisor as a foreign agent for the Turkish government.

Mr. Woolsey said he was invited to attend the meeting by the Flynn Intel Group’s chairman and president, Bijan Kian, and that he was offered a consulting fee for his work but declined compensation due to the conversation he alleges to have taken place.

“It seemed to be naive,” Mr. Woolsey told the Journal. “I didn’t put a lot of credibility in it. This is a country of legal process and a Constitution, and you don’t send out folks to haul somebody overseas.”

Price Floyd, a spokesman for Mr. Flynn, refuted the former CIA’s chief characterization of the conversation.

“The claim made by Mr. Woolsey that General Flynn, or anyone else in attendance, discussed physical removal of Mr. Gulen from the United States during a meeting with Turkish officials in New York is false,” Mr. Floyd said in a statement. “No such discussion occurred. Nor did Mr. Woolsey ever inform General Flynn that he had any concerns whatsoever regarding the meeting, either before he chose to attend, or afterwards.”

Mr. Gulen, 75, has lived in self-imposed exile in the Poconos since 1999, notwithstanding repeated calls for his extradition from Turkey over accusations involving his involvement in last year’s coup and other allegations. He has denied responsibility.

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