Why former NY mayor held secret meeting with Erdogan?
Thursday 20/April/2017 - 11:06 PM
The New York Times - When Rudolph W. Giuliani، the former mayor of New York City، traveled overseas recently to see President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey، the meeting was kept secret، and perhaps for good reason.
The two men had been brought together by a matter of common interest: the fate of Reza Zarrab، a Turkish gold trader jailed in Manhattan on charges of conspiring to violate the American sanctions on Iran.
Mr. Giuliani represents Mr. Zarrab، while Mr. Erdogan has taken an interest in Mr. Zarrab’s case and has publicly criticized the American government’s prosecution as unfair.
Now، Mr. Giuliani has for the first time acknowledged the contours of his unusual effort: In a newly unsealed court affidavit، he makes it clear that he is trying to turn a criminal case into a matter of international diplomacy.
In the affidavit، Mr. Giuliani، who is close to President Trump، said he was seeking a resolution to the case that will be favorable for Mr. Zarrab “as part of some agreement between the United States and Turkey that will promote the national security interests of the United States.”
Mr. Giuliani’s efforts come at a time when Mr. Erdogan has become even more powerful in Turkey after a hotly disputed referendum that expanded his authoritarian rule and drew a congratulatory phone call on Monday from Mr. Trump.
After Mr. Zarrab was charged a year ago، his case became a focus of Mr. Erdogan. The Turkish president claimed last year that there were “malicious” intentions in the prosecution، and he raised the matter with then-Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. during talks at the United Nations، according to Turkish news reports.
On March 30، during a visit to Ankara، Turkey، by Rex W. Tillerson، the American secretary of state، Turkey’s foreign minister، Mevlut Cavusoglu، accused Preet Bharara، who was the United States attorney in Manhattan when Mr. Zarrab was arrested، of being a pawn of anti-Turkish forces.
Mr. Bharara، who had been fired by Mr. Trump three weeks earlier، said after Mr. Cavusoglu’s comments، “I am not going to comment on false and silly political propaganda by a foreign official regarding a case that I no longer oversee.”
Mr. Zarrab’s decision to retain Mr. Giuliani and another prominent lawyer، Michael B. Mukasey، a former attorney general in the George W. Bush administration، was revealed in letters filed last month to the judge. In one letter، Mr. Zarrab’s lead lawyer، Benjamin Brafman، wrote، “Their roles will not require any appearance in court.”
The judge، Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court، asked Mr. Brafman to provide affidavits from Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey describing the work they had been retained to perform on Mr. Zarrab’s behalf. The judge said the affidavits، particularly if they contained privileged information، could be filed under seal and ex parte، meaning the government would also not be able to see them.
Mr. Brafman said on Wednesday evening that he had filed affidavits from both lawyers in that manner، but then، at the judge’s direction، refiled them publicly. “The affidavits speak for themselves،” Mr. Brafman said. (Mr. Mukasey’s affidavit is nearly identical to Mr. Giuliani’s.)
Mr. Zarrab، 33، who was born in Iran and moved to Turkey as an infant، has dual citizenship. He was charged with conspiring to facilitate millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of Iran and other sanctioned entities through the use of false documents and front companies، and with conspiracies to commit bank fraud and to commit money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey do not say whether، as part of some agreement between Turkey and the United States، they propose to have Mr. Zarrab’s charges dismissed. But it is clear their discussions have not been with the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan، which is prosecuting Mr. Zarrab، but rather with higher officials in the Trump administration.
“Senior officials in both the U.S. government and the Turkish government remain receptive to pursuing the possibility of an agreement that could promote the security of the United States and resolve the issues in this case،” Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey said in their affidavits.
They added that such “receptiveness is hardly surprising،” considering that none of the transactions in which Mr. Zarrab was alleged to have participated “involved weapons or nuclear technology، or any other contraband،” and “that Turkey is situated in a part of the world strategically critical to the United States.”
Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Mr. Bharara were apprised “in general terms” in advance of their meetings with Mr. Erdogan and other Turkish officials. They also discussed their roles and were briefed by a State Department representative in Turkey before they met with Mr. Erdogan.
In the affidavits، Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey expressed apparent frustration that their roles had become public and suggested their efforts could be “compromised by leaked information and misinformation.”
“The court should treat most seriously any apparent effort to subvert an entirely lawful” attempt by Mr. Zarrab’s lawyers “to pursue a state-to-state resolution of this case،” Mr. Mukasey wrote.