WASHINGTON, U.S. - As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the alleged collusion between Russians and President Donald Trump’s campaign intensifies, now all eyes are on Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Federal investigators are now reportedly examining whether Flynn met with senior Turkish officials just weeks before President Donald Trump's inauguration.
According to multiple people familiar with the investigation, they want to examine a potential quid pro quo in which Flynn would be paid to carry out directives from Ankara secretly while in the White House.
Two sources with knowledge of the probe said that Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russia's interference with the U.S. presidential election recently questioned witnesses about the alleged December 2016 meeting between Flynn and senior Turkish officials.
The questions were reportedly part of a line of inquiry regarding Flynn's lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkey.
Flynn's potential deal with Turkey was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, that has now revealed details of Mueller's investigation into the deal.
Further, sources have revealed that in the late December meeting, Mueller is looking into whether Flynn discussed orchestrating the return to Turkey of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Erdogan who lives in the U.S.
Three people familiar with the probe said investigators are examining whether Flynn and other participants discussed a way to free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who is jailed in the U.S. Zarrab is facing federal charges that he helped Iran skirt U.S. sanctions.
According to reports, Mueller is specifically examining whether the deal, if successful, would have led to millions of dollars in secret payments to Flynn.
Reports revealed that the meeting took place at the upscale 21 Club restaurant in New York, blocks away from Trump Tower where Flynn was serving on the presidential transition team.
The sources quoted in the reports claim that Flynn was offered upwards of $15 million, to be paid directly or indirectly, if he could complete the deal.
However, so far, it remains unclear how Flynn, as national security adviser, could have successfully carried out either alleged request.
Experts however have claimed that any deal in which a government official would be bribed to secretly act on behalf of a foreign government could potentially constitute multiple federal crimes.
Further, it has also been revealed that investigators are also looking into what possible role Flynn's son, Michael Flynn, may have played in any such efforts.
The younger Flynn worked closely with his father at his lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group.
In February, the elder Flynn was fired after just 24 days as Trump's national security adviser when it was publicly revealed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
On Sunday, reports stated that federal investigators looking into Russia's intervention in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign had gathered enough evidence to bring charges in the Flynn investigation.
Now, reports state that the grand jury is continuing to interview witnesses with knowledge of Flynn's business activities over the next week.
For a year now, the Turkish President Recep Erdogan has pressed U.S. officials to extradite the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania - who Turkey has blamed for masterminding the attempted coup in 2016.
Reports noted that federal investigators were looking into whether Flynn tried to push for the return of Fuel to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars.
The report stated that the Trump administration officials asked the FBI to review the Gulen case anew.
Officials said the FBI denied the request because Turkey had not provided any new evidence in the case, which was reviewed by the Obama administration.
Experts pointed out that extradition requests are processed through the State Department and U.S. justice system and are not determined by the White House or other agencies.