Russia probe turns to top Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta

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The “Russian collusion” probe has now taken a new twist, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly zeroed in on a top Democratic lobbyist and Clinton campaign fundraising bundler, Tony Podesta, and his company, The Podesta Group.

NBC News reported Monday that Mueller, who is leading the investigation into allegations of a possible “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election season, is investigating a tie between Podesta and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who both worked on a public relations campaign for a non-profit group called the “European Centre for a Modern Ukraine” (ECMU).

The investigation has turned into a criminal inquiry as to whether the group violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), under which people who lobby on behalf of foreign governments are supposed to file disclosures of their activities with the Department of Justice.

The campaign, which ran between 2012 and 2014, was reportedly intended to build support for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.

In August 2016, while Manafort was still in control of the Trump campaign, The Associated Press broke the news of his previous lobbying campaign in the Ukraine, and within days, he was ousted from the Trump campaign.

Tony Podesta, whose brother John Podesta was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, is chairman of The Podesta Group. John Podesta had already left the firm years ago.

In March, it was revealed that lobbyist Tony Podesta, owner of the D.C.-based Podesta Group, “works on behalf of Sberbank CIB USA, Inc., a subsidiary of Russia’s largest bank that is majority-owned by the government.”

Sberbank CIB USA Inc. paid Tony Podesta “$20,000 in the first quarter of 2016″ to “clarify the scope of sanctions imposed by Executive Order 13660,” signed by President Obama in March 2014 to block “property of certain persons contributing to the situation in Ukraine.”

  • Podesta was also hired by Sberbank to explore possible sanctions relief.
  • Disclosure forms show that Sberbank paid him $170,000 in 2016.
  • Podesta has bundled approximately $260,000 for Clinton’s campaign and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to high-ranking Democratic lawmakers, PACs, and committees.

Of the news that Mueller has now turned his focus to Tony Podesta, Fox News reported: “The development, though, would speak to how the Mueller probe may be expanding well beyond the original focus on Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with Trump associates — ensnaring Democratic figures in the process.”

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