Michael Rubin: Trump Team’s First Ethics Scandal

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

It’s only been a few days, but already it seems Donald Trump’s presumptive foreign policy and national security team could be weathering its first scandal.

have written about General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and an important Trump adviser, and his sudden about-face on Turkey in both his assessment of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s helpfulness in the war against terror and with regard to exiled Islamic theologian Fethullah Gülen. Gülen is a onetime ally of Erdogan’s whose exile and perhaps execution the Turkish president now demands.

11_16_Trump_Scandal_01 Former Defense Intelligence Agency Director and Donald Trump adviser Michael Flynn testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on "Worldwide Threats" on February 4, 2014. Michael Rubin writes that he sees a ethics scandal regarding Flynn and his sudden about-face on Turkey in both his assessment of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s helpfulness in the war against terror and with regard to exiled Islamic theologian Fethullah Gülen, whose exile and perhaps execution Erdogan now demands. Gary Cameron/reuters

What raised so many eyebrows was how sharply the op-ed diverged from Flynn’s previous positions and how it appeared to be in complete conformity with the Turkish government’s positions.

Now it appears there is more to the story. From The Daily Caller:

An intelligence consulting firm founded by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s top military adviser, was recently hired as a lobbyist by an obscure Dutch company with ties to Turkey’s government and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan….

The piece does not include a disclosure that Flynn Intel Group, the consulting firm that Flynn founded in Oct. 2014, just after leaving DIA, was recently hired to lobby Congress by a Dutch company called Inovo BV that was founded by a Turkish businessman who holds a top position on Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board.

A review of Dutch records shows that the company was founded by Ekim Alptekin, an ally of Erdogan’s who is director of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council, a non-profit arm of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board.

Members of the Foreign Economic Relations Board are chosen by Turkey’s general assembly and its minister of economy. In the role, Alptekin helped coordinate Erdogan’s visit to the U.S. earlier this year.

Certainly, any sort of disclosure means an ethics omission. This comes on top of Flynn’s attendance at the RT gala in Moscow and his leading chants of “Lock her up” at the Republican National Convention. All should raise broader questions about his judgment.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A former Pentagon official, his major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy.