U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has been under fire this week for supporting Turkey in high profile votes on House resolutions, received a $1,500 donation last month from a lobbyist with links to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Daily Caller reportedon Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Omar was one of the only members of the U.S. House of Representatives who refrained from voting to recognise the Armenian Genocide, and was the only Democrat to vote against sanctioning Turkey over Ankara’s military offensive against Kurdish-controlled territories in northern Syria.
Campaign finance records accessed by the Daily Caller show that Turkish American Steering Committee (TASC) co-chair Halil Mutlu, who is Erdoğan’s cousin according to Turkish media outlets, last month donated $1,500 to Omar’s campaign.
The congresswoman and Mutlu were photographed together at an event for TASC, a U.S.-based nonprofit that has for years waged public relations campaigns in support of Turkish government policies and Erdoğan, the Daily Caller said.
Campaigning against the recognition of the Armenian genocide has been one of the main missions of the TASC since it was founded in 2015. On Monday, ahead of the House vote, TASC urged its supporters to act against the resolution.
Mutlu, a doctor based in Connecticut, also met U.S. President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn in 2016 to discuss Turkey’s extradition request for Fethullah Gülen, a U.S. based Turkish cleric the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt that year.
Flynn’s former business partner, Iranian-American businessman Bijan Rafiekian, was found guilty in July on charges related to undeclared work for the Turkish government by the Flynn Intel Group in 2016.
A U.S. federal judge last month overturned the verdict saying that prosecutors had failed to show that Rafiekian ‘’knowingly acted as a secret agent for Turkey’s government under Ankara’s direction or control, and concealed his role from U.S. authorities.’’
TASC has organised protests outside Gülen’s home in Pennsylvania and also held rallies outside the White House to denounce U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish militias which Turkey sees as terrorists, the Daily Caller said.
The organisation also organised events in support of Erdoğan during his visits to the United States, including one on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month.
Omar, who was widely criticised across the political spectrum after Tuesday’s votes, said in a statement on Wednesday that recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight.
“A true acknowledgement of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of indigenous people in this country,” she said.
The same day, Erdoğan said that a country whose history was filled with stains of genocide, slavery and exploitation had no right to lecture Turkey. The Turkish president called on Turks living abroad to actively oppose campaigns against Turkey.
Omar, who actively champions various human rights causes, has remained largely silent on Erdoğan, whom she met in New York City in September 2017 when she served in the Minnesota House, the Daily Caller said.