Investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller are questioning witnesses about an alleged September 2016 meeting between Mike Flynn, who later briefly served as President Donald Trump's national security adviser, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a staunch advocate of policies that would help Russian Federation, two sources with knowledge of the investigation told NBC News.
Under the plan, Flynn, who was sacked by Trump after just 24 days in the job, and his son, Michael Flynn Jr, were to receive up to $15 million if they forcibly removed Fethullah Gulen from his home in the United States and delivered him to the Turkish government, people familiar with the investigation told the Journal. Flynn's business partners and son, Michael G. Flynn, also attended, according to the NBC report.
Mueller is said to be investigating whether Flynn and his son were scheming with the government of Turkey to essentially kidnap Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in Pennsylvania who has always been a thorn on the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"The obvious leverage that Mueller has over Flynn is that he could indict Flynn's son", tweeted Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor.
The new allegation, that Flynn and his son engaged in a conspiracy to arrange the rendition of Fethullah Gülen to the Erdoğan government - which accuses the cleric of plotting an abortive coup in July 2016 - could if confirmed result in even more serious charges.
The report does not expand on what exactly was discussed during that meeting in Washington, D.C., but investigators apparently learned about it while reviewing emails Flynn Intel Group sent to Rohrabacher's staff thanking them for the conversation. Discussions between Flynn and Turkish representatives reportedly took place there.
Sources said the December meeting was a follow up to an earlier meeting on the same matter. It is not clear if any money changed hands or if any preparatory steps were taken.
The discussions allegedly included how to transport Gulen on a private jet to Turkey. But today's news cycle has brought allegations against General Flynn, ranging from kidnapping to bribery, that are so outrageous and prejudicial that we are making an exception to our usual rule: "they are false", they wrote in a statement.
The same pressure may also be at play with Flynn, who has voiced fears over his son's legal exposure.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year on a meeting Flynn hosted in NY in September 2016, in which participants basically talked about kidnapping Fethullah Gulen, removing him from his home in Pennsylvania, circumventing America's extradition process, and delivering him to Turkey's government, which considers Gulen a risky enemy. Turkey has requested the cleric be legally extradited, but the US government has so far rejected this.
Flynn was working as an adviser to Trump's presidential campaign at the time.
If proven, the alleged plan to kidnap the cleric with the aid of foreign money directly violates USA criminal code and could result in up to a 20-year sentence for the Flynns, according to a legal analyst.