- Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, attended a breakfast meeting at which Michael Flynn and Turkey’s foreign minister were also present.
- The breakfast took place just before President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.
- A Wall Street Journal report published Friday indicated the special counsel Robert Mueller was scrutinizing Flynn’s dealings with the Turkish government.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, attended a breakfast meeting in January that Michael Flynn, then the incoming national security adviser, and Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, also attended.
The breakfast event, held on Wednesday, January 18, was closed to the press, and it is still unclear what exactly was discussed.
The Washington correspondent for the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah, which tends to be pro-government, reported at the time that an aide to Cavusoglu said he “was the only foreign leader at the breakfast and the topics on the US-Turkish agenda were discussed by the attendees.”
The invitation, obtained by the newspaper, said the breakfast would “be a small event for about 50-60 guests” and that the incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, “might join the meeting,” Daily Sabah reported.
Nunes’ spokesman, who did not return a request for comment on Friday, issued a statement earlier this year downplaying the importance of the breakfast.
“Chairman Nunes was a speaker at that event, but it was a large breakfast event, not a small, private meeting as described in that article,” the spokesman, Jack Langer, told the fact-checking website Snopes.
“Mr. Cavusoglu was one of about 40 attendees at the event, which included 20-30 ambassadors to the U.S. and about 10 other foreign dignitaries and officials. The attendees heard some remarks from Flynn, Chairman Nunes, and other representatives on national security issues – the discussion topic was not Turkey or any other single country … if [Nunes did speak to Cavusoglu], it would’ve been among all the other ambassadors and officials at the event. There was no separate, private meeting.”
Nunes’ attendance at the event is newly relevant amid revelations that the special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating a meeting that another congressman, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, took with Flynn in September 2016. Flynn had begun lobbying on behalf of Turkish government interests one month earlier.
New scrutiny of Flynn’s dealings with Turkey
- Thomson Reuters
That lobbying work continued into the presidential transition and through December, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Friday. Mueller is scrutinizing an alleged plot involving Flynn to return an exiled Turkish cleric to the country, the report said.
It is unclear whether Flynn was still being paid to lobby for Turkish government interests when he attended the breakfast meeting on January 18.
But on January 10, Flynn reportedly met with the national security adviser at the time, Susan Rice, and asked her to hold off on implementing an anti-ISIS plan that involved arming the Syrian Kurds. The Turkish government vehemently opposes any plan that would empower the Kurds, whom Ankara views as a threat to Turkey’s sovereignty.
Nunes, meanwhile, has been at the center of a series of controversies since the House Intelligence Committee began investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.
The California Republican stepped aside from the investigation in early April after it emerged that he had briefed Trump and the press on classified intelligence without first telling his fellow committee members. But he quickly began conducting his own investigations into “unmaskings” by the Obama administration and the credibility of a dossier, compiled by the former British spy Christopher Steele, alleging ties between Trump’s campaign team and Russia.
In June, Nunes angered the Democrats when he demanded more details from the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency about why Obama administration officials requested the unmasking of Trump associates last year. He also threatened in September to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Chris Wray in contempt of Congress if they did not respond to a subpoena for documents relating to the Steele dossier.