Michael Flynn’s ex-lobbying partner, Bijan Kian, will soon learn his fate from a jury in a case related to pro-Turkish government lobbying work their firm did in 2016 just before the presidential election.
Closing arguments for the five-day trial concluded Monday evening and a jury of seven men and five women will meet Tuesday morning to begin deliberations.
Kian, a 67-year-old Iranian-American businessman, had been charged with conspiring to hide lobbying work for Turkey from the Justice Department and acting as an illegal foreign agent. The case had been spun off from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which had investigated Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, for possibly acting as an unregistered agent of the Turkish government.
The general scheme, prosecutors allege, was that Kian and Flynn had knowingly worked for the Turkish government, but had kept that work secret by being paid through the company of a Turkish-Dutch businessman, Ekim Alptekin from September to November 2016. They did the work while Flynn was an influential foreign policy adviser to candidate Trump.
Alptekin, the Flynn Intel Group’s client, was also charged in the case but has not come to the US to face his charges. He is thought to live in Turkey.
Prosecutors spent three days calling 15 witnesses to testify and showing the jury emails, business proposals and Skype messages between Kian, Alptekin and others.
During closing arguments, Assistant US Attorney James Gillis cast doubt on the idea that the only thing Kian did wrong was improperly fill out a Foreign Agents Registration Act form.
“This isn’t some regulatory violation,” Gillis said.
With Kian’s wife sitting in court, defense attorney Mark MacDougall responded passionately as he highlighted the important role of the jury and repeated a saying from his grandmother: “Just because you say it, dear, doesn’t make it true.”
But one person who has been conspicuously absent throughout the trial featured prominently as MacDougall laid out his opening salvo against the prosecution.
“If we’re so transparent, where is Michael Flynn?” MacDougall asked about Flynn, who did not testify in the case. He went on to quote from the still-unexplained statement from prosecutors that said Flynn had another arrangement with Alptekin because of his “relationship with an ongoing presidential campaign,” which the US government deemed to be part of the Turkish government’s effort to influence US policy.
The prosecution hit back in their rebuttal, telling the jury that either side could have compelled Michael Flynn to testify.
“Why are we talking about Flynn here?” Gillis asked before continuing on to argue that the prosecution has carried the burden of evidence “in spades.”