Michael Flynn may have taken a nice paycheck from Russian state media RT when he visited Moscow to sip champagne with Russian leaders and give Vladimir Putin a standing ovation, but the money he brought home from that trip is just a fraction of what he got supporting another autocratic strong-man. Now Special Counsel Robert Mueller is extending his investigation into Flynn’s bigger source of income as an unregistered foreign agent. In the process, Mueller is actually taking over an existing criminal investigation by a Virginia grand jury.
The move means Mueller’s politically charged inquiry will now look into Flynn’s paid work as a lobbyist for a Turkish businessman in 2016, in addition to contacts between Russian officials and Flynn and other Trump associates during and after the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Flynn took more than half a million dollars to go after Fethullah Gülen, an opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The 76-year-old Gülen was regarded as one of Erdogan’s closest allies before 2013, but the two fell out when Erdogan accused Gülen of being involved with investigations that brought corruption charges against more than fifty members of Erdogan’s party. Gülen fled to the US while Erdogan placed him on Turkey’s “most-wanted-terrorist list,” even though US intelligence has found no evidence that connects Gülen with terrorism.
Erdogan also claimed that Gülen was behind a 2016 coup attempt, though again, US investigators found no connection. Turkey issued an extradition request, The Obama administration refused to comply. However, with the Trump regime on the way, and Michael Flynn both pocketing a massive check and writing anti-Gülen editorials, Erdogan was likely warming up a cell. But Flynn’s sudden departure frustrated those who had paid him for results.
Now Flynn’s time as a unregistered foreign agent for Turkey will join his work in helping Russia under Mueller’s microscope as he takes over for an existing grand jury investigation.
Mueller’s move to take over the Virginia grand jury’s criminal investigation highlights his broad powers as special counsel.
It’s also a good indicator that Mueller interprets his writ broadly in the sense that he’s not just limited to specific incidents during the campaign. How Mueller’s expansion of his investigation will affect Donald Trump isn’t clear, but it’s certainly not good news for Michael Flynn, who faces possible charges on multiple fronts.
Despite efforts to slow down action in the House and Senate investigations, both of those committees also seem to have focused on the former national security adviser.
The House of Representatives intelligence committee, which is also investigating Russian interference in the election, subpoenaed records from Flynn on Wednesday. The Senate's intelligence committee, which has a separate probe under way, has also served subpoenas on Flynn and two of his businesses, and earlier this week Flynn indicated that he would start turning over relevant materials.
This may seem to be a lot of Flynn, not much Trump, when it comes to the investigations. However, the fact that it was the investigation into Flynn that Trump attempted to halt in his talk with James Comey suggests that looking too closely into one may mean running into the other.