Turkish Government Hires FBI Director’s Longtime Friend For Work On Mystery ‘Legal Matter’

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The Turkish government has hired FBI Director Christopher Wray’s longtime friend and former law partner Andrew C. Hruska to work on an unspecified proposal to the Justice Department, according to newly filed government documents.

Hruska, a partner at the law firm King & Spalding, recently registered as a foreign agent of Turkey, according to documents released by the Justice Department on Saturday.

The filings state that King & Spalding, where Wray worked until taking the FBI job, was hired “to prepare and present a proposal to the U.S. Department of Justice for cooperation between the governments of the United States and Turkey regarding the handling of a U.S. legal matter.”

“You are engaging the firm to provide legal services in connection with a specific matter,” reads a contract signed on Nov. 21 by Hruska and Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kilic.

There is no indication of impropriety with the agreement. And it is unclear whether the FBI would also be involved in the case that Hruska has been tapped to handle. But Hruska’s close relationship to Wray raises questions about the Turkish government’s rationale for hiring the lawyer.

Hruska and Wray have known each other for 45 years and attended kindergarten, high school and college together. They worked together in the George W. Bush Justice Department before joining King & Spalding. Hruska vouched for Wray in several interviews prior to his confirmation as FBI director.

“He thinks clearly, he makes commitments, he keeps commitments,” Hruska told NPR of his pal in an interview earlier this year.

Hruska’s hiring fits Ankara’s pattern of hiring well-connected lobbyists and lawyers to handle some of its most controversial projects.

Earlier this year, the Turkish government hired Trump confidant Rudolph Giuliani as part of the legal team representing Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who faced money laundering and bribery charges for operating a scheme to skirt sanctions against Iran.

The Turkish government and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have kept a watchful eye on the case because of evidence that implicates Erdogan and members of his family in the sanctions busting scheme.

Giuliani was hired to negotiate a potential deal between the Trump administration and Turkish government to prevent the Zarrab case from going to trial. The deal apparently fell through as Zarrab recently pleaded guilty and has testified against the Turkish government in federal court in New York City.

The Turkish embassy has also hired Ballard Partners, a Florida-based lobbying shop operated by Brian Ballard, one of the Trump campaign’s top Florida fundraisers.

Ballard has been paid a total of $1.125 million so far this year by the Turkish government and Halkbank, a government-owned bank whose executives have been charged in the Zarrab case. Lobbying disclosure reports show that Ballard held several meetings with White House officials to discuss “U.S.-Turkey relations.”

The Turkish government made another high-profile connection to Trumpworld last year. In Aug. 2016, a Turkish businessman who operates a trade group controlled by the government signed a $600,000 contract with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. (RELATED: Michael Flynn Is Lobbying For Turkish Businessman)

The aim of the project was to develop a media campaign against Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in exile in the U.S. Erdogan has accused Gulen, his former ally, of orchestrating a failed coup attempt that left more than 250 people dead in Ankara and Istanbul in July 2016.

Erdogan has expressed outrage towards the U.S. for harboring Gulen, who he considers a terrorist. He has raised Gulen’s extradition with both Presidents Trump and Obama, and his government ministers regularly broach the issue with top State Department and Justice Department officials.

The Turkish government claims to have turned over evidence tying Gulen to the coup. But Gulen denies being involved in the failed putsch, and the U.S. government has indicated that the Turks have not provided enough evidence to support their allegations.

In another case, the Turkish government has pressured U.S. authorities over charges filed against members of Erdogan’s security for an attack they waged against peaceful protesters outside of Ambassador Kilic’s residence in Washington, D.C. on May 16.

Erdogan and Kilic were on the scene that day as a group of Erdogan’s bodyguards and supporters attacked the protesters. Fifteen members of Erdogan’s security detail and four civilian supporters of the authoritarian leader were indicted in the case.

There is no indication that Hruska has been involved in those cases, though it was revealed on Saturday that charges were dropped last month against four members of Erdogan’s security detail.

An English-language Turkish news outlet called Ahval reported that the charges were dropped on Nov. 7, a couple of weeks before Hruska signed the contract with the Turkish government.

Hruska did not respond to a request for comment about the legal matter he was hired by the Turkish government to handle. The Turkish embassy also did not reply to a request for comment.

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