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Flynn’s immunity ask highlights Turkish lobby in DC

By Georgia Logothetis, Managing Director

The Wall Street Journal this week highlighted that Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former national security advisor, is seeking an immunity deal in exchange for providing information to the FBI or to investigative committees in Congress. It’s unclear what information Flynn may have, or what he believes may require immunity. There are many pieces on the proverbial chess board, involving both Russia and Turkey.

It may well be that Flynn is seeking immunity for his action relating to lobbying for Turkey. To recap what we know so far:

Whatever the fallout for all this for Flynn, it paints a very clear picture of the Turkish lobby’s influence in DC. Clearly, the Turkish government and its allies have been willing to spend millions to sway policy on Capitol Hill — and it’s startling how effective their strategy has been.

As has been reported, Turkey “is the poster child when it comes to foreign lobbying opportunities for former members of both parties”:

In recent years, the country’s increasingly autocratic government has employed an army of lobbyists, including Gephardt, Lott, Breaux, former House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston (R-La.), the late Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.), former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), former CIA director and longtime House member Porter Goss (R-Fla.) and former Reps. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) and Jim McCrery (R-La.).

The favorable treatment these former lawmakers seek for their clients often bumps against U.S. foreign policy or the interests of the constituents they once served, and, in some cases, they are putting foreign companies over U.S. businesses, whether the issue is recognizing the Armenian genocide or sanctioning a Belarusian potash company.

The issue of recognizing the Armenian Genocide is a sobering example of how money talks in DC. Take former House minority leader Dick Gephardt, for example. As POLITICO explained:

During his time in the House representing Missouri, Gephardt was a champion for the Armenian-American community’s top priority in Washington: getting Congress to adopt a resolution recognizing the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman government in the run-up to World War I as a genocide. […] But after joining the private sector and taking Turkey as a client, Gephardt made a striking turnabout, lobbying his former colleagues on Capitol Hill to vote against the genocide resolution. His backflip on the issue has earned him charges of hypocrisy and even a boycott campaign by Armenian-Americans, as the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported earlier this year.

It’s why the issue of recognizing the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide is still a perennial controversy in Washington…indeed, even this year, in advance of the 102nd anniversary on April 24th, members of Congress have reintroduced a resolution on the genocide (these resolutions almost always also include a reference to the fact that Greeks and others were also targeted in the genocidal campaign by the Ottomans). Given the money behind Turkish efforts to suppress the legislation, grassroots activists will have to rally to offset the Turkish lobby’s influence on this issue.

Whatever comes of Flynn’s predicament, it unveils the strength and reach of the Turkish lobby in Washington, one that must be met with a renewed call to action by the Hellenic diaspora to fight for Hellenic issues, democratic values, and stability in the region.

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