President Donald Trump‘s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has cooperated extensively with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on multiple ongoing investigations after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI. One of those investigations Flynn provided “substantial assistance” on was initially shrouded in mystery, but was later revealed to be an investigation into a “conspiracy” against the United States.
The Department of Justice unsealed the indictments of 66-year-old Californian Bijan Rafiekian (also known as Bijan Kian) and 41-year-old Turkish-Dutch national Kamil Ekim Alptekin in December 2018. Kian was formerly a business partner of Flynn’s. The judge in Kian’s case on Tuesday decided to vacate a February 11 trial date, seemingly due to a mountain of evidence. On Wednesday, Kian asked for the trial date to be moved all the way to September 2019 — and he’s blaming the government shutdown.
“The government shutdown, for which there is no end in sight, has seriously hampered the normal process [of discovery],” he said.
The day before, Kian referred to the “sheer volume” of evidence against him.
"And there is more to come. Under the circumstances, the defendant should not have to comb through a haystack looking for a needle to understand the indictment's allegations," he writes.
There's also some basic problems with the indictment, Kian explains.
First, walk with me:
— Brandi Buchman (@BBuchman_CNS) January 22, 2019
In lieu of a trial date, hearings in the case will still be held. Kian and Alptekin were charged with conspiracy, lying to the FBI, and illegally acting in the U.S. as Turkish agents. Michael Flynn was referred to as “Person A” in the unsealed indictment.
Kian and Alptekin were allegedly involved “in a conspiracy to covertly influence U.S. politicians and public opinion against a Turkish citizen living in the United States whose extradition had been requested by the Government of Turkey.” That Turkish citizen has been identified as cleric Fethullah Gulen. Gulen was accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of orchestrating a failed coup.
Here’s how the DOJ described the “plot”:
The plot included using a company founded by Rafiekian and a person referred to as “Person A” [Flynn] in the indictment. The company, referred to as “Company A” in the indictment, provided services based upon Person A’s national security expertise.
The indictment charges that the purpose of the conspiracy was to use Company A to delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of the American public and United States politicians, with the goal of obtaining [Gulen’s] extradition, which was meeting resistance at the U.S. Department of Justice. At the same time, the conspirators sought to conceal that the Government of Turkey was directing the work. However, not only did Turkish cabinet-level officials approve the budget for the project, but Alptekin provided the Turkish officials updates on the work, and relayed their directions on the work to Rafiekian, Person A, and others at Company A.
According to allegations in the indictment, the scheme included using a Dutch company owned by Alptekin to appear to be the “client” of Company A and to pay the company’s fee of $600,000, which was to be paid in three installments. Alptekin made the payments from an account in Turkey. The indictment alleges that after Alptekin made the payments to Company A, it was to kick back 20 percent of the payments to Alptekin’s company in the Netherlands, and two such kickbacks were made.
Both Kian and Alptekin face a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted on charges of conspiracy and acting in the United States as an illegal agent of the government of Turkey, but Alptekin was also charged for lying. Those four lying counts each carry a maximum of five years in prison.
You can read the indictment here.
[Image via Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]