(WASHINGTON) — In early 2017, Rudy Giuliani urged President Donald Trump to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States, a former senior level administration official with direct knowledge confirmed to ABC News.
Giuliani repeatedly urged Trump that the U.S. government should eject Fethullah Gulen from the country, a top priority of the Turkish president.
The former senior official told ABC News that White House officials stepped in and stopped any action from ever happening.
Aides told Giuliani he should tell the Turkish government that if they wanted this individual extradited they should directly contact the United States Department of Justice, which would evaluate the request, according to the source.
The Washington Post was first to report the story.
Gulen, a Muslim cleric, has been living in exile in Pennsylvania.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long accused Gulen of plotting a coup in 2016 against him, a charge that he denies. Bringing Gulen back to Turkey for punishment has been a top goal of Erdogan.
In a text exchange with The Post Tuesday afternoon, Giuliani declined to discuss whether he advocated for Gulen’s extradition, writing: “can’t comment on it that would be complete attorney client privilege but sounds wacky.”
When told that multiple people described those conversations to The Post, Giuliani responded “Bull,” and then liked the question with a thumbs-up emoji.
Metin Topuz, a Turkish translator for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is currently under trial in Turkey for alleged connections to Gulen’s supposed coup attempt.
Two ex-business associates of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former campaign adviser, were charged by the government with acting as foreign agents in a plot centered on smearing the Turkish cleric.
U.S. Department of Justice attorneys alleged in December 2018 that the two business associates, Bijan Rafiekian and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, “sought to discredit and delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of politicians and the public, and ultimately to secure the Turkish citizen’s extradition.”
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December 2017 in connection with Robert Mueller’s investigation into meddling in the 2016 campaign, and is scheduled for sentencing in December.
Diplomatic relations between Turkey and the U.S. are currently highly strained over the former’s decision to invade Syria and pursue Kurdish forces previously allied with America in the fight against the Islamic State. Trump issued a decision to pull troops out of northern Syria after a call with Erdogan last week, opening the door for the invasion.
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