Trump Administration Efforts on Behalf of Turkish Bank

In late 2019, Halkbank, a large Turkish state-owned bank, was charged with fraud and money laundering — charges that President Trump and Attorney General Barr had reportedly attempted to prevent. American Oversight is investigating whether any inappropriate influences led to these alleged efforts to interfere, from the president’s business interests and those of his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to a powerful Trump-connected lobbying firm and the Turkish president himself.

For months, the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly pressured President Donald Trump and his administration not to take action against its country’s second-largest state-owned bank, Halkbank. And reports indicated that Trump was on board, having asked former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to convince the Justice Department to drop its investigation of the bank, and telling Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Attorney General William Barr to work with Erdogan on the matter. Treasury has acknowledged that the issue of Halkbank came up during meetings Mnuchin had with Turkish officials.

But besides Trump, the bank also had the help of Ballard Partners, the fast-growing influential lobbying shop headed by Trump friend Brian Ballard, who had served as vice chair of the president’s inauguration. There was also Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who in 2016 and 2017 had pushed for the release of a jailed client suspected of involvement in Halkbank’s multibillion-dollar effort to skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran. A CNN report in February 2020 — four months after the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York charged Halkbank with fraud and money laundering — said that Barr had “personally spearheaded” an attempt in 2019 to negotiate a settlement and avoid an indictment for the bank.

The timing of the October 2019 charges, when the president was being roundly criticized for having allowed the Turkish incursion into Syria, raised questions about how the investigation and indictment were handled. And news of Barr’s reported involvement, coming on the heels of his stunning intervention in the sentencing recommendations for Trump ally Roger Stone, was yet another troubling example of the president’s politicization of the Justice Department. American Oversight is seeking records that could shed light on whether and to what extent the administration interfered in a criminal case in the service of external influences or the president’s personal interests.

Related Documents

March 3, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with the White House Regarding Halkbank

Criminal Division, Department of Justice
February 28, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with the White House Regarding Halkbank

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
February 28, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications Between DOJ Leadership and USAO Leadership Regarding Halkbank

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
February 28, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Email Communications Containing Terms Related to Halkbank

Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy
FOIA Request
January 15, 2020

FOIA to Treasury Seeking Communications with Halkbank and Giuliani

Department of the Treasury
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to Treasury Seeking Communications about Halkbank with Turkish Officials

Department of the Treasury
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to Treasury Seeking Communications about Halkbank with External Entities

Department of the Treasury
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to Treasury Seeking Communications about Halkbank with the White House

Department of the Treasury
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications about Halkbank with Turkish Officials

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with Halkbank and Giuliani

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications about Halkbank with External Entities

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications about Halkbank with the White House

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Communications about Halkbank with Turkish Officials

Department of State
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Communications about Halkbank with External Entities

Department of State
FOIA Request
January 6, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Communications about Halkbank with the White House

Department of State
FOIA Request