Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, repeatedly urged President Donald Trump to arrange for the deportation of a Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gülen, calling him a violent extremist who needed to face justice in Turkey, former White House officials said on Tuesday, according to The New York Times.
Turkey has requested that the United States hand over Gülen, a permanent American resident living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, to be tried on charges that he instigated a failed coup in Turkey in 2016.
The disclosure came as Giuliani escalated his battle with Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday by defying a congressional subpoena for documents about a rogue campaign that pressured Ukraine’s president to dig up dirt on Trump’s political rivals.
The characterization of Gülen as a dangerous extremist echoed language that Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, used to describe the cleric when he was serving as a secret lobbyist for the Turkish government while also advising Trump’s campaign in 2016.
Giuliani’s push to have Gülen deported was first reported by The Washington Post.
In a phone interview on Tuesday night, Giuliani denied ever trying to intervene in the Gülen case and accused people of intentionally making things up to damage his credibility.
“That would be totally crazy. I couldn’t have gotten Gülen extradited. Why would I have gotten involved?” Giuliani said. “It’s definitely untrue. I had nothing to do with Gülen.”
He said his only interest in sending someone to Turkey was a prisoner exchange involving his client at the time, Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman who was accused in a more than $10 billion scheme to thwart sanctions on Iran.
Gülen has denied accusations that he plotted to overthrow Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in 2016.