The media seems to have overlooked that this story relates back to Gen. Michael Flynn working as a foreign agent (undisclosed) for Turkey. Flynn wrote this pro-Turkey propaganda op-ed on election day in 2016 in The Hill, Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support. Robert Mueller’s investigation later found that Flynn’s Turkish lobbying client complained about Trump’s stance during the campaign:
A foreign client paying retired Gen. Michael Flynn more than $500,000 to mount a campaign to advance Turkish government interests during the 2016 presidential campaign explicitly complained to a Flynn aide that then-candidate Donald Trump was not being supportive enough, newly released documents show.
A set of talking points prepared in October 2016 by Mike Boston, a former U.S. intelligence officer working with Flynn, indicate that “the client” backing the lobbying project complained that the GOP nominee had not gone to bat for Turkey. At the time, Flynn was also serving as a top foreign policy adviser to Trump.
In other words, Turkey was conducting a foreign influence campaign against Donald Trump, and had an agent working inside his campaign, Michael Flynn.
The influence campaign by Turkey worked, according to new reporting from the New York Times. Turkish Bank Case Showed Erdogan’s Influence With Trump.
The short version: Donald Trump had two of his attorney generals, Matthew Whitaker and William Barr, intervene in the criminal investigation into Halkbank, a state-owned Turkish bank suspected of violating U.S. sanctions law by funneling billions of dollars of gold and cash to Iran, on behalf of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. It resulted in the firing of two U.S. Attorneys in the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman and his predecessor, Preet S. Bharara. Trump intervened in the criminal investigation to advance a transactional agenda of his own, as a favor to Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
This is rank corruption of the Department of Justice and the criminal justice system on behalf of a foreign leader. In a just world, Trump and Barr would immediately be impeached for this. You will have to defend the rule of law by voting Trump out of office on Tuesday.
Steve Benen explains The painful simplicity of Trump’s new Turkey scandal:
The conventional wisdom in political circles is that scandals have to be simple to gain traction. The more complex the controversy, the more difficult it is for the public to understand. And if the public doesn’t understand, the political world will lose interest, and the scandal won’t generate lasting consequences.
With this in mind, it’s tempting to think yesterday’s stunning report in the New York Times — the kind of article that might generate talk of impeachment under normal political circumstances — will struggle to resonate broadly because of its complexities. It involves a foreign bank few Americans have heard of, and some relatively obscure players lacking household names.
But at its core, the scandal need not be seen as some labyrinthian tale requiring a flow chart to understand. On the contrary, the controversy should probably be seen as painfully simple: a foreign dictator asked Donald Trump to corrupt his own country’s justice system, and the Republican president gladly said yes.
In fact, one of my favorite angles to the story is that it began before Trump took office.
The president was discussing an active criminal case with the authoritarian leader of a nation in which Mr. Trump does business [Trump Towers Istanbul are two conjoined towers in Şişli, Istanbul, Turkey] …. And Mr. Trump’s sympathetic response to Mr. Erdogan was especially jarring because it involved accusations that the bank had undercut Mr. Trump’s policy of economically isolating Iran, a centerpiece of his Middle East plan. Former White House officials said they came to fear that the president was open to swaying the criminal justice system to advance a transactional and ill-defined agenda of his own.
This wasn’t an instance in which the White House simply placated a foreign leader, humoring Erdogan while ignoring his demands. On the contrary, the Republican White House, unlike Obama and Biden, pressed the Justice Department to back off in the Halkbank case.
After initially saying he wouldn’t, Trump did fire the U.S. Attorney whose office was investigating the Turkish bank [Preet S. Bharara]. The prosecutor’s successor, Geoffrey Berman, moved forward with the probe, but when his office was ready to file criminal charges, the effort was blocked — by Trump’s acting attorney general at the time, Matt Whitaker, who made clear that he wanted the matter “shut down.”
When Whitaker was replaced by Bill Barr, the current attorney general, Barr reportedly told the U.S. Attorney he wanted prosecutors to go easy on Halkbank, allowing it to avoid an indictment “by paying a fine and acknowledging some wrongdoing.” At that point, Barr’s Justice Department “would agree to end investigations and criminal cases involving Turkish and bank officials who were allied with Mr. Erdogan and suspected of participating in the sanctions-busting scheme.”
To his credit, Geoffrey Berman balked, saying the move would be unethical and at odds with Justice Department policy. Ultimately, Berman was fired, too.
It’s important to emphasize that federal prosecutors did end up prosecuting Halkbank, not because of a change in the case, but only after Trump clashed with Erdogan about an unrelated matter [support for our Kurdish allies in Syria].
I realize this story is landing at a busy time, but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it. Yes, it may seem complex, with a lot of moving parts, but keep the bottom line in mind: a foreign dictator asked Donald Trump to corrupt his own country’s justice system, and the Republican president, along with top members of his team, gladly said yes.
There a so many corruption scandals in the Trump swamp that it is impossible for the average person to keep track of all the corruption scandals.
The simple answer to all this is to “drain the swamp” — vote Trump out of office. Then let the law deal with all his corruption scandals.