The Trump Administration is considering removing one of Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s political enemies from the United States in order to convince him to go easy on Saudi Arabia for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, according to sources cited Thursday by NBC News. Last month, the sources claim, the White House asked organizations including the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security to find a legal way to expel Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen—a man Erdogan claims is a terrorist who orchestrated a failed coup in 2016—from the country. Gulen has lived in Pennsylvania for nearly 20 years. More seasoned government officials initially found the request so ludicrous, a source said, that they thought the administration had to be kidding. “At first there were eye rolls,” a senior official involved in the process told NBC, “but once they realized it was a serious request, the career guys were furious.”
Turkish officials denied that any action in Gulen’s case would influence their investigation into Khashoggi’s murder. “We definitely see no connection between the two,” a Turkish official said. “We want to see action on the end of the United States in terms of the extradition of Gulen. And we’re going to continue our investigation on behalf of the Khashoggi case.” On Thursday, the Saudi prosecutor told journalists that the government is seeking the death penalty for five of the 21 suspects currently in custody.