Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly taking command of the federal probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s Turkish lobbying deals, a move that could give him leverage over a central figure in the broader Russia investigation.
Reuters reported Friday that Mueller will now oversee an ongoing federal grand-jury investigation in eastern Virginia into Flynn’s relationship with Turkish businessman Ekim Alpetkin. According to Reuters, Alpetkin’s company Inovo paid Flynn’s lobbying firm $530,000 during the fall of 2016 to research and film a documentary about exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a political foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who lives in Pennsylvania.
Taking over the investigation would give Mueller broad authority over its direction and outcome. The Turkish-lobbying probe is believed to be the most advanced of the inquiries looking into President Trump’s inner circle. Federal prosecutors conducting the investigation reportedly empaneled a grand jury some time after the president’s inauguration in January and have issued subpoenas targeting Flynn’s business records and those held by his associates.
Overseeing the investigation could also give Mueller a valuable bargaining chip with Flynn in the broader federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, was one of Trump’s closest aides during the presidential campaign, culminating in his brief tenure as national-security adviser. That proximity to the president placed him at key moments of interest to investigators. One of them is an early December meeting with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which Kushner reportedly asked Kislyak about using Russian diplomatic facilities to communicate with Moscow.