A cable star's alternate stories: Who was paying Michael Flynn for the work for which he enrolled as a "foreign agent?"
We ask the question for an obvious reason—we watch the Maddow Show. The program's host has been alternating two different stories over the past two weeks.
Ever since last fall, Maddow has tended to say that Flynn was "on the payroll of the Turkish government" when he did the lobbying for which he belatedly registered as a "foreign agent." As far as we know, no other news org has made this claim—and as far as we know, there never was any actual evidence in support of the claim.
Such trivial matters rarely affect the claims you hear from Maddow. That said, Maddow almost seems to have abandoned this talking point by now. That seemed true in her broadcast last night, when she kept identifying Ekim Alptekin as "the guy who paid Mike Flynn more than half a million dollars, which Mike Flynn did not disclose on his security clearance application in Washington."
Just for the record, Alptekin is not the Turkish government, though he's said to be close to the Turkish president. He's a Turkish businessman who was the founder of a Dutch consulting firm called Inovo BK. In the literal sense, Inovo was the "foreign entity" whose payroll Flynn was on.
(And no. Under terms of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, you don't have to work for a foreign government to be required to register as a "foreign agent.")
Was Inovo really a front for the Turkish government? Was the Turkish government secretly providing the money used to pay Flynn?
Everything is possible! That said, no one has demonstrated that linkage. Needless to say, this never kept Maddow from making her dramatic claim. From last November right through last month, Michael Flynn was persistently said to have been "on the Turkish government's payroll."
Then, last Tuesday night, Maddow told a new story, which she sourced to this report from Politico. According to Maddow's new report, Flynn's lobbying work may have been funded by secret money from Russia!
This is completely possible, of course, especially since everything is. But as Maddow told this new exciting story, her previous exciting story seemed to disappear.
Was Flynn being paid with money from Moscow? Below, you see the heart of Maddow's exciting report from last Tuesday night.
As she starts, she is speaking about the Siberian Energy Group, a Russian entity run by an oligarch in the control of Putin. When she refers to "the guy who paid Flynn," she is referring to Alptekin, the head of the Dutch lobbying firm.
Suddenly, an exciting new possibility emerges. It may be that Flynn's work for Inovo was being funded from Moscow:
MADDOW (4/25/17): The Siberian Energy Group, I highlight that group because they play a starring role in a scoop today at Politico.com. Politico has done a deep dive into the finances of the Siberian Energy Group and concluded, quote, "The Siberian Energy Group's dealings were characteristic of the equity trades offshore financing schemes and consulting agreements that Putin's allies have used to protect and hide assets."To enjoy the whole segment, click here.
Politico is reporting on this particular trail of Putin money and Putin influence because it now appears to relate to the man you see on your screen here [shows photo of Flynn]. It now appears to relate to the Trump White House, specifically to the former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
You remember that after Mike Flynn got fired as national security adviser, allegedly for not disclosing and then lying about the content of his communications with the Russian government, a few weeks after he got fired, he retroactively registered as a foreign agent who had been working on behalf of the government of Turkey.
What Politico.com reports today is that, while it is clear that Mike Flynn took money to act as a foreign agent, it's not clear that the origin of those funds is definitely Turkey.
The head of that Siberian Energy Group is not a Turkish guy. He is, as Politico puts it, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies, one who has ties to Vladimir Putin.
He's not Turkish. He's not a Turkish citizen. He doesn't live in Turkey. He's not of Turkish ethnicity. He's not Turkish.
He has nevertheless founded a couple of very Turkish-sounding organizations that operate in Washington, D.C.—the Turkish Heritage Organization and the Turkish Institute for Progress. Both of them set up by nobody Turkish. Both of them set up by a Russian energy and mining executive who has ties to Putin.
Through those organizations, Politico reports today that he has coordinated what appear to be Turkish lobbying efforts in D.C. He appears to have coordinated those efforts with the guy who paid Flynn, with the guy [Alptekin] whose shell company paid Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn over $600,000.
So, in addition to—we're talking about the guy who paid Flynn [Alptekin]. In addition to his partnerships with the not-at-all Turkish guy who is close to Putin, who is running these Turkish lobbying efforts, the guy who paid Flynn himself also, it turns out, has his own business ties to Russia and to Putin, including pretty significant-sized aviation deals run through a Russian state-run bank, a Russian state-run bank that's been implicated in Russian intelligence operations in the past, and he has been involved in deals through that bank that have been proven to be signed off on by Putin himself personally, according to court documents reviewed by Isaac Arnsdorf at Politico.
Politico reports that the multiple Putin connections to Flynn's foreign agent lobbying contract, quote, "raise questions about the agenda of the people who hired Flynn" and, quote, "the source of the funds used to pay him."
It is as yet unexplained and totally unprecedented that the national security adviser would then retroactively register as having been on the payroll of a foreign government during the time he was advising the president and sitting in on the President's Daily Brief and getting supposedly vetted to be national security adviser. I mean, the unprecedented and strange and still unexplained nature of all of that goes to another level if it now turns out that the money Mike Flynn was taking from foreign sources while Russia was attacking our country is, in fact, money that conceivably could have come from Russia, not from any other government.
In that story, Maddow summarizes Politico's report thusly:
She says that Alptekin, the head of Inovo, paid Flynn some $600,000. She says the money may have come from Dmitri “David” Zaikin, the Russian head of the Siberian Energy Group.
She identifies Zaikin as a Putin-controlled Russian oligarch. She further notes that Alptekin "has his own business ties to Russia and to Putin, including pretty significant-sized aviation deals run through a Russian state-run bank...that's been implicated in Russian intelligence operations in the past, and he has been involved in deals through that bank that have been proven to be signed off on by Putin himself."
Are these claims true? We have no idea. That said, by last Friday night, Maddow seemed to have returned to the pleasing claim that Flynn had been "on the Turkish government's payroll." As far as we know, she has never tried to explain how these varying stories are supposed to hang together, if they're supposed to do so at all.
Was Flynn secretly being funded by Putin? Was he somehow "on the Turkish government payroll?" We don't know, and there's little obvious sign that Maddow actually cares.
She works a bit like Donald J. Trump. She likes to tell a good story every night, but seems to pay little attention to the way her stories hang together from one day to the next.
We aren't supposed to notice. Sometimes, she will still correct some tiny mistake to make us think she's honest.
Last night, she was back on the story in which the money seemed to have come from Russia. She made this exciting statement right at the start of her show:
MADDOW (5/3/17): OK. Siberian Energy Group. Part of what Politico reported last week, and what we told you about when we talked about this here on this show, is that there is a link between the CEO of that now-defunct Siberian Energy Group and the guy who paid Mike Flynn more than half a million dollars, which Mike Flynn did not disclose on his security clearance application in Washington.Starting last fall, Maddow told viewers, for many months, that Flynn had been "on the Turkish government's payroll." Now, she is increasingly suggesting that he may have been paid with money from Russia.
This is the money that was paid to Flynn that later caused him to retroactively register as an agent of a foreign power after he was fired from the White House as national security adviser. The guy who paid Flynn that money [Alptekin] has his own business history in Russia as reported by Politico, including at least one financing deal that was personally approved by Vladimir Putin.
This is an interesting thing about the Flynn story, right? That link from the guy who paid Flynn to his Russian business dealings that personally involved Putin, does that mean that the money that was used to pay national security adviser Mike Flynn might have its origins in Russia, while Russia at that very time was also attacking the U.S. election to help Trump win?
That's the question. People who are trying to figure out the Trump-Russia story by following the money, that's what makes this whole question red hot. That's why this is so important.
The prospect that when Flynn was being paid during the campaign, there is—this possibility has been raised, that maybe who was paying Flynn, maybe the source of his foreign money were the same people who were attacking the election on Trump's behalf. I mean, it's a red hot question and it's an important question.
As far as we know, she has made no attempt to reconcile these shifting claims and suggestions. That said, she was always overstating the factual record when she made her pleasing claim about Flynn having been on the Turkish payroll.
In the literal sense, Flynn was on the Inovo payroll. Beyond that, the basic facts seem to be unknown. That said, Maddow likes to feed the beast of tribal pleasure each night. More and more and more and more, she's the multimillionaire Hannity figure for us on the gullible pseudo-left.
Final point: before she returned to her Russian story last night, Maddow played one of her favorite games. Right at the start of her TV show, she mugged and clowned and entertained and dissembled about a stupid trivial point. We'll spare you the moronic details. If you're an admirer of high-paid corporate dissembling, you can just click here.
Maddow was sold to us long ago as Our Own Rhodes Scholar. Starting last fall, she spent months making the apparently unsubstantiated claim about Flynn having been "on the Turkish payroll." Now we're on to the Russian thing with no apparent attempt to explain the apparent change in the story.
Are we the only ones who notice such ch-ch-ch-changes? Is the thrill of a good tribal tale so pleasing that no one else in our pitiful tribe even wants clear explanations from this Big Fish-inflected teller of good tribal tales?
One last basic point: Did Flynn know who might have been funding his work? Politico makes no claim on that score.