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01 November 2017, 12:40 | Katrina Lee
Tony Podesta and then wife Heather Podesta at a Washington party
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and another former Trump aide, Rick Gates, have been accused of setting up a lobbying scheme on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian leader that concealed the ties the effort had to his political party.
Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group are now the subjects of a federal investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, three sources with knowledge of the matter told NBC News. It is unclear whether the indictment is referring to those two companies. Manafort and Gates selected the lobbying firms in February 2012 and the center signed contracts with the firms without ever meeting either one, according to the indictment.
The Mueller investigation had initially only delved into the Podesta Group's activities to gather facts on Manafort, whose indictment was announced yesterday, but then began to investigate the Podesta Group itself after it became apparent that it had failed to disclose that it was lobbying in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign actor, a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
On Monday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Tony Podesta's lawyer Geoff Garinther with Venable LLP, demanded the show "immediately cease and desist disseminating false and misleading reports about Mr. Podesta and the Podesta Group".
Manafort and Gates directed Company A and B on lobbying during weekly calls, received detailed oral and written reports from the firms about their work, and "congratulated and reprimanded" the firms, prosecutors said. Podesta, however, claims he was not aware that the ECMU was working for a foreign government and did not file a disclosure under FARA due to legal opinions attorneys gave him. In those filings, Podesta and Mercury said that they were unaware their work was for the Ukrainian government.
The inquiry is reportedly into Podesta's work for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, which was not disclosed until after payments from the group to Podesta's firm were discovered by the press. According to Monday's indictment, the center was created in 2012 and used by Manafort, Gates and others to conduct a public relations campaign in the US and Europe on behalf of the Yanukovych regime.
Probably even more well-known though - at least outside of Washington - is his brother John Podesta, who ran the 2016 presidential campaign for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Tony Podestastepped down from his firm after Mueller's indictment was released, alleging that he had been targeted unfairly by conservative media.
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