Armenian Assembly Calls for Public Congressional Hearings on Turkish Interference in America’s Democratic Institutions
Reiterates Call for Members of Congress to Withdraw from the Turkish Caucus
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid reports that Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be filing new indictments after probing a potential quid pro quo scheme, whereby then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn would be paid $15 million to secretly carry out Turkey’s bidding, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) calls for thorough public Congressional hearings to fully expose these matters. Flynn was already paid $530,000 last year for work the Justice Department says benefited the government of Turkey, and did not register as a foreign agent at the time.
The Assembly has repeatedly highlighted Turkey’s attempts to gain surreptitious influence over U.S. officials and media to the detriment of U.S. national security, and has urged investigations therein. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Member, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), in a June 2017 op-ed in The Hill titled “Did Turkey’s payments to Michael Flynn delay our military operations against ISIS?” stated that “questions regarding Turkey, however, reveal most clearly how personal considerations may have overridden our national interests.” In addition, the Assembly has also highlighted Azerbaijan’s attempts to undermine western democratic values and institutions through the billions it has spent in the “Laundromat scheme” to buy silence. Investigations are now bearing fruit. The Assembly has also urged with some success those Representatives who joined the Turkish and Azeri Caucuses to withdraw.
In Florida, Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) sit on the Armenian Caucus. Ros-Lehtinen, who will retire in 2018, is also on the Turkish Caucus, as are Reps. Dennis Ross (R-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), and Ted Yolo (R-FL). Hastings is the only Florida Representative on the Azerbaijan Caucus.
“The latest news regarding secret payments to Michael Flynn to carry out Turkey’s bidding are just the tip of the iceberg,” stated Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian. “Illegal Turkish and Azerbaijani money has been flowing into D.C. and we have an obligation to immediately stop these corrupting practices. Beyond thorough investigations and indictments, exposure through public hearings and legislative reform to increase reporting and penalties are necessary to stop officials who can be bought by the Erdogans and Aliyevs of the world from hijacking the American government,” they added. “Members ought not to associate themselves with such corrupt and authoritarian regimes. Given Turkey’s treatment of Christians, dangerously rogue behavior, denial of the Armenian Genocide and support for Azerbaijan’s ISIS-style beheadings and other attacks, it is well past time for Members of Congress to withdraw their membership from the Turkish and Azeri Congressional Caucuses.”
By Taniel Shant
FLArmenians Political Contributor
Armenian American advocacy groups, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) and the Armenian National Committee (ANC), are currently urging the Armenian American community to voice their concerns to the federal government.
Last month, both groups issued ‘Action Alerts’ on issues of concern to the over 1 million strong Armenian American community. Here in Florida, there are approximately 30,000 Armenian Americans.
With the inauguration of the President Donald J. Trump and the start of the 115th Congress, the groups called on their respective members to take action to boost the Armenian Caucus membership, express opinions regarding the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, as well as contacting the Trump Administration to advance Armenian American policy priorities for 2017.
The Assembly, an independent, non-partisan, Washington, D.C.-based organization, urged members to send messages to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding nominees Sessions and Tillerson. Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate last week and Sessions is expected to be approved this week.
The Assembly is currently seeking to boost the bi-partisan Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, which currently stands at 87 Members of Congress, a historic low. “The 115th Congress is at work, and we are turning to you to urge your Representative to join the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues,” read the Assembly statement. “We need to expand the Armenian Caucus to counter growing opposition, and hostility in the region. Our goal is to increase the number of Members who will speak up for the rights of the people of Armenia and Artsakh. Please urge your Representative to join the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues,” read the Assembly alert.
The ANC, the U.S. arm of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, a Yerevan-based Armenian political party, issued calls to its membership to outline key policy priorities to the Trump White House. “Ask President Trump to support Armenia,” reads the ANC alert. The ANC outlined three key policy areas: “Properly commemorating the Armenian Genocide as a clear case of genocide challenging Turkey’s obstruction of justice for this still unpunished crime and more broadly rejecting Turkey’s efforts to control U.S. policy on Armenian issues; Advancing a durable and democratic peace in the Caucasus by recognizing and supporting the independent Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and; Growing the U.S.-Armenia economic military and political partnership and supporting a secure prosperous and democratic Armenia.”
Armenian Caucus Members are Successful
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a long, close, and hard fought presidential race, Republican nominee Donald J. Trump, early Wednesday morning, surpassed the requisite number of Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). In addition to the White House, Republicans retained their majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate although by smaller margins.
“We congratulate president-elect Trump and his running mate Mike Pence, and we commend American Armenians who participated in the election process throughout the country,” stated Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian.
“In his victory speech, president-elect Trump’s call for national unity was gracious and is welcome. During the campaign, president-elect Trump recognized Turkey’s ties to ISIS, as well as its increasingly authoritarian regime. In addition to Turkey, President Trump will also need to address Azerbaijan’s sharp deterioration and its links with ISIS. Both countries pose a threat to stability in the region,” Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian added.
“In view of the insecurity in the region, it is vitally important that Christians and minority communities at risk be protected and we urge the new Administration and new Congress to take steps to safeguard these vulnerable communities,” the Co-Chairs continued.
Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues
In the House of Representatives, the Members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues had a strong showing with the overwhelming majority of those seeking re-election winning, including Co-Chairs Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA) and Vice Co-Chairs Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Dave Trott (R-MI). Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Robert Dold (R-IL) facing a re-match with Democrat Brad Schneider did not win, nor did his Senate colleague Mark Kirk (R-IL). Meanwhile, Armenian Caucus Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) handily won his election to the United States Senate having defeated Turkish Caucus Congresswoman Donna Edwards in the Maryland primary. In addition, Caucus Member Janice Hahn (D-CA) won her bid for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
“We congratulate the Members of the Armenian Caucus on their victories. We are proud to have two Members of Armenian descent in the House of Representatives, namely Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier. Armenian American Danny Tarkanian, however, did not prevail in Nevada,” stated Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “We also appreciate the strong support of our friends who will not be returning to Congress and wish them every success.”
In addition to a strong showing on the House side, pro-Armenia candidates also won in the Senate. Apart from Van Hollen, Armenian Genocide resolution cosponsors Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and long-time supporter of Armenian issues Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were all re-elected.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.