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Turkish MP Close to Erdoğan Engages Former Trump Senior Campaign Adviser

October 28th, 2020 13:55

Swedish media is report­ing that a for­mer Trump senior cam­paign advis­er will be help­ing a Turk­ish MP close to Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Erdoğan to devel­op con­nec­tions in Wash­ing­ton with­out charg­ing for his ser­vices. Accord­ing to the Nordic Mon­i­tor report:

Octo­ber 11, 2020 Ali İhs­an Arslan, a close con­fi­dant of Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a deputy from the rul­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP), hired a for­mer senior advis­er to the Trump cam­paign, lob­by­ist Bar­ry Ben­nett,  US Depart­ment of Jus­tice For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act (FARA) records have revealed. Accord­ing to doc­u­ments filed with FARA on Wednes­day, Ben­nett says he will assist Arslan in his role as a mem­ber of par­lia­ment “to devel­op bet­ter rela­tions with key pol­i­cy mak­ers and thinkers in Wash­ing­ton.” Ben­nett also says he will work with Arslan free of charge because he is “Arslan’s friend.” Yet, despite the absence of a for­mal, paid con­tract between the two, Ben­nett seems to have dis­closed his rela­tion­ship with Arslan to meet the require­ments of the US statute known as FARA. The For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act requires cer­tain indi­vid­u­als work­ing as “agents of for­eign prin­ci­pals who are engaged in polit­i­cal activ­i­ties or oth­er activ­i­ties spec­i­fied under the statute to make peri­od­ic pub­lic dis­clo­sure of their rela­tion­ship with the for­eign prin­ci­pal, as well as activ­i­ties, receipts and dis­burse­ments in sup­port of those activ­i­ties.” Accord­ing to Bennett’s FARA fil­ing, his activ­i­ties on behalf of Arslan “may include com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Mem­bers of Con­gress and Con­gres­sion­al staff, Exec­u­tive Branch offi­cials, the media, and with oth­er indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions that could ref­er­ence rela­tions with the Repub­lic of Turkey.”

Read the rest here.

Accord­ing to the arti­cle, Ben­nett is a part­ner at Avenue Strate­gies, a firm he found­ed with for­mer Trump cam­paign man­ag­er Corey Lewan­dos­ki. In addi­tion to being a Senior Advi­sor to the Trump cam­paign, he was the cam­paign man­ag­er for Ben Carson’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial run, as well as fundraised and set up super PACs for oth­er Repub­li­can can­di­dates and ini­tia­tives. Avenue Strate­gies’ clients have also includ­ed the Embassy of Qatar, a strate­gic ally of Turkey, and Avenue Strate­gies has stat­ed that it rep­re­sents Qatar in pub­lic affairs mat­ters. Bennett’s actions on behalf of the state of Qatar have included:

  • Gain­ing the writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ny of a retired Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence offi­cer stat­ing that Qatar had not pro­vid­ed weapons to Hamas, thus poten­tial­ly pre­vent­ing sanc­tions against Qatar.

Avenue Strate­gies appears to be work­ing on the Turk­ish-Qatari side in the Mid­dle East, against Sau­di Ara­bia, the UAE, and oth­er Arab states. The arti­cle con­tin­ues to describe Turk­ish MP Arslan as follows:

Arslan, known as Müc­ahit (spelled Mujahid in Eng­lish, mean­ing jihadist) in AKP cir­cles, has been a close con­fi­dent of Erdoğan since his time as the may­or of İst­anb­ul. He is a busi­ness­man and one of the found­ing mem­bers of the AKP. Until his elec­tion to par­lia­ment in 2015, Arslan had no offi­cial titles but remained part of a core group that trav­eled almost every­where with Erdoğan. In a 2004 cable on then-Prime Min­is­ter Erdoğan, US Ambas­sador to Turkey Eric Edel­man men­tioned Müc­ahit Arslan’s name under the sub­ti­tle of cor­rup­tion and said, “Charges that Erdo­gan amassed his for­tune through kick­backs as may­or of Istan­bul have nev­er been proven but we now hear more and more from insid­ers that close advi­sors such as pri­vate sec­re­tary Hik­met Bul­duk, Muc­ahit Arslan, and Cuneyd Zap­su are engag­ing in whole­sale influ­ence peddling.”

(See NOTE 1 bot­tom for a GIOR com­ment on his name)

Arslan has also been described as “one of sev­er­al peo­ple Erdo­gan used as a backchan­nel to try to smooth things over with Wash­ing­ton,” includ­ing meet­ing with White House and Pen­ta­gon offi­cials in the face of poten­tial sanc­tions due to Turkey’s pur­chase of the Russ­ian S‑400 air defense system.

The Nordic Mon­i­tor sug­gests that hav­ing Arslan work­ing with Avenue Part­ners may be a last-minute attempt to have the Trump admin­is­tra­tion address Turk­ish inter­ests before a new admin­is­tra­tion poten­tial­ly enters into pow­er. Addi­tion­al­ly, giv­en Bennett’s long record in Repub­li­can pol­i­tics, Turkey may just as well be secur­ing effec­tive lob­by­ing for Turkey with­in the GOP even if they lose the pres­i­den­cy or Sen­ate seats this election.

(NOTE 1: Nordic Mon­i­tor stat­ed that, in AKP cir­cles, Arslan is known as Müc­ahit, “mean­ing jihadist.” Pre­sent­ed with­out con­text, the GIOR views this as an inflam­ma­to­ry state­ment. Müc­ahit is a name giv­en to chil­dren, and Arslan has said that although Müc­ahit is not his legal name, he has been called this through­out his entire life. The fact that oth­ers call him Müc­ahit does not make him a jihadist, nor does it mean that oth­ers believe that he deserves “jihadist” as a nick­name. The arti­cle is oth­er­wise well-sourced.)