Departing U.S. Cabinet members questioned over Trump’s Gülen offensive – report

A top Democrat from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday questioned departing members of the U.S. Cabinet over the scope of outgoing President Donald Trump’s campaign against Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, according to the press release.

Senator Ron Wyden has penned three separate letters to the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Attorney General Bill Barr, asking the cabinet members about how deep the Trump administration’s anti-Gülen offensive went, Adam Klasfeld reported first in legal news website Law and Crime.

Ankara maintains that Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, masterminded the 2016 attempted coup that led to the deaths of more than 250 people and has designated his followers as a terrorist organisation. 

Gülen, a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, denies involvement in the failed putsch.

Turkey has sent multiple extradition requests to the U.S. government for Gülen while pursuing a worldwide crackdown on his followers in the aftermath of the failed putsch.

Wyden’s letter to DeVos said that the Trump administration’s domestic education policy might be driven by personal interests and those of foreign leaders “rather than the interests of the American people.”

Gülen’s followers run a network of charter schools and associations in the United States, which the Trump administration in 2017 looked into cutting off public funding for, Bloomberg reported.

The other two letters to Wolf and Barr pertained to reported efforts seeking Gülen’s extradition and prosecution, respectively.

The three cabinet members have been asked to turn over answers and evidence by Dec. 16.

The letters to the outgoing members of U.S. Cabinet arrive a week after Trump pardoned his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who in 2017 admitted to a $530,000 deal to work as a foreign agent in service of Ankara’s disinformation campaign against Gülen.

Senator Wyden known for his close proximity to Enes Kanter, a Turkish NBA player who once played for Portland Trail Blazers, Wyden's home state team. Kanter is openly a follower of Turkish cleric Gülen. Senator Wyden is also known as one of the first U.S. senators who hosted Kanter and Mevlüt Hilmi Çınar, who owns the company that manages Kanter, since the coup attempt in 2016.

Çınar's father-in-law İhsan Arslan, one of the founding members of Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was sent to the disciplinary board after criticising his party's recent policies on Kurdish issue. Arslan's son, Mücahit Arslan, is currently an AKP deputy. Arslan has been reportedly one of the backchannels sent to the U.S. capital to mend the ties between the two countries in 2019. The New York Times reported in November that Arslan was in Washington, D.C. again, headhunting lobbyists for the incoming Biden administration.