Trump Says He Isn't Considering Extraditing Gulen to Turkey

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he isn’t considering extraditing a prominent critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan despite a media report that the White House had asked law enforcement agencies to examine the Muslim cleric’s legal status.

Trump was asked Saturday as he departed the White House about Fethullah Gulen, an Erdogan critic who now lives in Pennsylvania and whose extradition Turkey has long sought.

“No, it’s not under consideration,” Trump said before he left for California. But he added, “We are looking, always looking at whatever we can do for Turkey.”

On Thursday, NBC News reported that the White House had asked law enforcement agencies to examine Gulen’s legal status and to look at ways of removing him from the U.S. The report, which fueled a strengthening of the Turkish lira, cited two U.S. officials and two other people briefed on the requests without identifying them.

Erdogan’s efforts to seek Gulen’s extradition accelerated after a failed 2016 coup against Erdogan that he blames on Gulen’s followers. Gulen, who was an ally of Erdogan until the two men had a falling out, has rejected the accusations. So far, the U.S. hasn’t moved against him.

NBC reported that the White House was considering sending Gulen to Turkey as part of an effort to lower tensions over the killing of Saudi government critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month.

Trump offered warm words for Erdogan Saturday in his comments to reporters, saying the Turkish president is “a friend of mine. He’s a strong man, he’s a tough man and he’s a smart man.”

Khashoggi, a critic of the Riyadh government who wrote for the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2. A steady flow of Turkish intelligence leaks about his killing have fueled tensions with Saudi Arabia and put the U.S. in a difficult position between two allies.

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