Donald Trump’s national security adviser has been reported to the National Security Agency over claims he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Mike Flynn has been accused by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump (DCAT) of carrying out political activities seeking to influence the White House on behalf of Turkey and its president, Recep Erdogan, while failing to register as an agent with the Department of Justice.
The news comes as the White House refused to defend Mr Flynn over his alleged discussion of sanctions with Russian officials before Mr Trump took office.
Last September Mr Flynn and his company The Flynn Intel Group, which provides intelligence services for businesses and government, signed a contract with Dutch company Inovo BV, which had contracts with the Turkish government, to keep the company informed about the transition between Barack Obama and Mr Trump in the White House.
The company’s founder, Kamil Ekim Alptekin, is known for having a close relationship with President Erdogan, the Democratic Coalition said.
But neither Mr Flynn nor his company are registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires every agent to register with the Department of Justice within 10 days of agreeing to take the post.
This is part of efforts to “ensure that the US Government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of the person attempting to influence US public opinion, policy and laws”, the Department of Justice says on its website.
Failure to comply to the law under the act can result in a five-year prison sentence and up to $10,000 fine.
On the day of the election, Mr Flynn also wrote an op-ed on US political website The Hill, advocating for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish exile blamed by the Erdogan administration for inciting the military coup last summer. The Democratic Coalition said Mr Flynn's arguments were in line with the goals of President Erdogan’s government.
After July’s aborted coup, Mr Gulen fled Turkey for Pennsylvania and strongly denied charges he orchestrated or was even involved in it.
Titled “Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support,” Mr Flynn wrote: “Gulen portrays himself as a moderate, but he is in fact a radical Islamist. He has publicly boasted about his 'soldiers' waiting for his orders to do whatever he directs them to do.
"If he were in reality a moderate, he would not be in exile, nor would he excite the animus of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government.
“We need to adjust our foreign policy to recognise Turkey as a priority. We need to see the world from Turkey’s perspective.
“The forces of radical Islam derive their ideology from radical clerics like Gulen, who is running a scam. We should not provide him safe haven. In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.”
The Democratic Coalition said: “By publicly advocating for policies on behalf of President Erdogan and the Turkish Government while working for Kamil Ekim Alptekin and Inovo BV, especially by penning the op-ed in The Hill and failing to register with the Department of Justice as foreign agent, Flynn may have violated FARA."
Neither Mr Trump nor his aides have publicly said that Mr Flynn has the President’s confidence after it was alleged he discussed Russian sanctions with officials before Mr Trump took office. The controversy has left him in a weakened position and under growing political pressure, the Washington Post reports.
Nine former or serving intelligence officials told the Washington Post last week that Mr Flynn had conveyed to the Russian ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, that the relationship between the US and Russia would change after Mr Trump took office.
Mr Trump’s senior team and Mr Flynn initially denied the claims. Mr Flynn later said he had "no recollection of discussing sanctions and he couldn't be certain the topic never came up".
Senior Advisor to the Democratic Coalition, Scott Dworkin, said: “Lieutenant General Flynn, who now holds the top national security position in the White house, has years of questionable relationships working with foreign government. If we can’t trust him to be transparent by filling out a simple form how can we trust him to secure our country at the highest level.”