One month after speculation swirled that as part of the detente between the White House and Turkey - and attempts to silence Turkey's ongoing disclosures of Jamal Khashoggi 's demise at the hands of Saudi operatives - Trump was quietly preparing to extradite Turkish president Erdogan's nemesis, the Pennsylvania-residing cleric Fethulah Gulen, which in turn was promptly denied by the White House, on Sunday the Turkish foreign minister once again claimed that president Trump is still working on extraditing Gulen.
"In Argentina, Trump told Erdogan they were working on extraditing Gulen and other people," Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sunday at a conference in Doha, referring to the G20 summit where the leaders met two weeks ago.
In mid-November, NBC News reported that the White House was looking for ways to remove Gulen from the U.S. in order to placate Turkey over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. According to the report, Trump administration officials asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing the exiled cleric in an attempt to persuade Erdogan to ease pressure on the Saudi government. It now appears that despite the White House's denials, such negotiations were indeed taking place.
The 77-year-old Gulen, whom Erdogan has blamed over the past decade for creating a "shadow government" to plot his overthrow, and used him as a scapegoat to unleash an unprecedented crackdown on all domestic opposition, became an even more contentious figure in Turkey after Erdogan accused him of orchestrating an attempted military coup in 2016 from his Pennsylvania compound. Gulen denies having any role in the putsch.
Special counsel Robert Mueller disclosed more details earlier this month of former national security adviser Michael Flynn's efforts to cover up the extent of his ties to the government of Turkey while he was a top official on Trump’s campaign and transition. The documents specifically stated that a key component of Flynn’s work for Turkey involved the government’s efforts to remove Gulen from the U.S. Flynn began working for Turkey about a month after the failed July 2016 coup.
NBC News previously reported that Mueller’s team was looking into whether Flynn met with senior Turkish officials in December 2016 about a possible deal under which Flynn would be paid to orchestrate the return of Gulen to Turkey once in the White House.
US pastor Andrew Brunson was initially charged with, among other things, helping supporters of Gulen. Brunson's detention prompted a prolonged diplomatic spat between the two countries which concluded amicably with his release in October after spending nearly two years in detention in Turkish detention, resulting in a sharp rally in the Turkish lira and removal of US sanctions against Ankara, leading to speculation of a much improved diplomatic climate between the two nations.