The Trump Russia dots are starting to connect in interesting places. Focus first on narrow charges, as Robert Mueller is, because they are always easier to prove than wide ranging conspiracies — although by no means rule those out entirely, because some interesting facts have recently been uncovered. Last month Mueller subpoenaed an associate of Mike Flynn’s Turkish lobbying client, Ekim Alptekin, a man named Sezgin Baran Korkmaz. The subpoena ordered Korkmaz to testify before a grand jury in Washington on Sept. 22. ProPublica:
“The grand jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving the Foreign Agents Registration Act, among other offenses,” a letter accompanying the subpoena stated. The letter is signed by Robert Mueller and Zainab Ahmad, a senior assistant special counsel who specializes in prosecuting terrorism. Korkmaz did not respond to requests for comment.
There are no indications of direct links between Korkmaz and Flynn, who briefly served as Donald Trump’s national security adviser. But Korkmaz, 39, is a close ally of Ekim Alptekin, the 40-year-old Turkish businessman who hired Flynn to lobby for Turkish interests shortly before the election. Korkmaz, a Turkish national, said in a radio interview in May that he started as a dishwasher at age 13 and is now bringing hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. to Turkey. His company invests in a range of industries in Turkey, the Middle East, the U.S. and Russia, and he has invested in several projects that involve people accused or convicted of crimes.
It’s not clear why prosecutors wanted Korkmaz to testify. But one possible explanation is his connection to Alptekin. Investigators are interested in the ultimate source of the money that Alptekin’s company paid to Flynn’s firm, according to a person familiar with the probe. (Representatives for Alptekin, Flynn and Mueller all declined to comment.)
Korkmaz keeps some very interesting company:
Some of Korkmaz’s colleagues and investing partners have come under scrutiny — or worse — by criminal authorities. The U.S. sister company of Korkmaz’s operation, known as SBK Holdings USA, is led by Levon Termendzhyan, a Russian fuel trader with a long rap sheet, according to court records. Termendzhyan has been charged with, but found not guilty of, tax fraud and armed assault. He was convicted of battery in 2013.
In an ongoing lawsuit in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, a former SBK Holdings USA employee claimed in a sworn declaration this year that he was told by two people interviewed by Department of Homeland Security investigators that the agents are probing Termendzhyan for money laundering, tax evasion and stolen petroleum. SBK Holdings USA’s lawyer called those accusations “irrelevant and preposterous” in a court filing. (The lawyer declined to comment for this article.) SBK Holdings USA accuses the former employee of embezzling, which he denies.
So Korkmaz’s US sister company is led by a Russian with a long rap sheet who is under investigation for money laundering and Korkmaz is a close ally of Alptekin, who hired Mike Flynn to lobby for Turkish interests. Did those interests include a pitch that Mike Flynn made, accompanied by Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East? Bear in mind that all those people were members of the transition team, which was headed by Mike Pence — who doesn’t know anything about Mike Flynn or Russian collusion he has repeatedly said. Despite the fact that Pence is as pristine as the driven snow, his lawyer, Richard Cullen, personally met with his former colleague at the Justice Department, Robert Mueller, in June, to assure Mueller of Pence’s desire to cooperate fully with the FBI investigation.
Now, as stated, Mueller will unquestionably seek to lock down a case on FARA (Foreign Agent’s Registration Act) violations by Mike Flynn, and those carry a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison, which is not petty. But there is no way that Flynn’s actions start and stop with a procedural violation. Mike Flynn refused requests from the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify twice, once in May and again in September and he has requested immunity, which has been denied. Mike Flynn used to have dinner with Vladimir Putin and he has appeared on Russian television. He and Paul Manafort are the twin pillars upon which the Trump Russia investigation rests.