February 18, 2018

Tony Podesta's Democratic Lobbying Firm Under Criminal Investigation by Robert Mueller

25 October 2017, 01:02 | Kara Nash

Tony Podesta Democratic-leaning lobbyist is reportedly under investigation as part of the Robert Mueller probe

Tony Podesta Democratic-leaning lobbyist is reportedly under investigation as part of the Robert Mueller probe

Manafort reportedly worked along side the Podesta Group for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), a nonprofit dedicated to increasing pro-Ukrainian sentiment in the west. Investigators are now examining whether the lobbying firm violated FARA by failing to disclose their work for a foreign government. Through that organization, Manafort hired the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC to do public relations and lobbying work aimed at shielding Yanukovych from worldwide condemnation for actions such as jailing political rivals. Manafort's longtime deputy, Rick Gates, directed the Podesta Group's work - and the work of a GOP-leaning firm, Mercury LLC - for ECFMU, previously reported emails have shown. Mr. Podesta is the brother to John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, although he is not part of Mr. Mueller's investigation at this time.

According to NBC, sources said a fact-finding mission about Manafort and his role has led to a criminal inquiry into whether the Podesta Group violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Prison sentences for Manafort and Podesta are unlikely. That report said the investigation was briefly halted but that the FBI ultimately renewed its focus on Manafort as part of the broader investigation into possible collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation. CNN reported last month that both firms were under Justice Department investigation from 2014 to 2016 in connection with a probe into Manafort's lobbying and other activities.

The Podesta Group was paid $1 million for the campaign, according to a CNN report, and Mercury LLC received $720,000.

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Manafort served as chairman of President Donald Trump's electoral campaign between March and August 2016, and resigned shortly after media reports about his lobbying efforts in Ukraine.

FARA's requirements also encompass lobbing firms who do work on behalf of a political party, and require a disclosure form be filed with the Justice Department.

Mueller's reported interest in Tony Podesta, and his Dem-leaning lobbying firm the Podesta Group, stems not from any apparent links to Russia's 2016 election meddling activities, but rather a failure to disclose 2012-2014 lobbying activity for a Ukrainian non-profit closely aligned with the interests of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. Manafort retroactively registered as a foreign agent in June 2017. Mercury made an identical assertion. The Podesta Group and Mercury did not respond to inquiries on Monday. That law requires those that lobby on behalf of foreign principals to register as foreign agents. Skadden has not registered under FARA, contending that none of its attorneys did work that required registering.

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