Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort details how the former Trump campaign manager worked through two Washington, DC-based lobbying firms on behalf of his client, Viktor Yanukovych, the former Moscow-aligned president of Ukraine.
The two firms are identified in the indictment as only Company A and Company B. Reportedly, Company A is Mercury Public Affairs, which leans Republican. Company B is none other than the Podesta Group, founded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta and, until this week when he resigned, was headed by John’s brother, Tony Podesta.
The Podesta involvement in Manafort’s operation disrupts the media narrative that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, but it is unclear whether Mueller will actually indict Podesta. According to Fred Lucas in the Daily Signal:
Proving a violation of the foreign-agent law could be tricky, which is why the law has been so rarely enforced, said Ken Boehm, a former Pennsylvania state prosecutor and chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a nonprofit government-watchdog group.
“You have to disclose who you’re registered for, but the question comes up: What is lobbying?” Boehm told The Daily Signal. “The actual definition is narrow. You can do public relations or write opinion pieces all day long. It’s not lobbying unless you meet with lawmakers or officials for the purpose of influence.”
Boehm further doubts anyone with the Podesta Group will face indictment.
“One, I don’t think that Bob Mueller is investigating Podesta as deeply as he’s investigating Manafort. We haven’t seen a raid,” Boehm said. “And two, it’s not against the law to represent sleazeballs. In Washington, it’s a growth industry. Sometimes foreign sleazeballs have more money, because they’re leaders of countries.”
The first wave of media coverage on Monday stuck to the narrative that the Manafort indictment somehow connected Trump to the Russians. Then reporters started reading the indictment putting the Ukrainian influence-buying scheme at the doorsteps of the campaign managers of both presidential campaigns. The events described by Mueller, however, took place from 2006 to 2014. The whole thing had nothing to do with the 2016 election.