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The Day Gets Even More Interesting: Tony Podesta Steps Down From His Lobbying Firm

The Paul Manafort indictment, released today, contained an easily-solved mystery. Who did Manafort work with in the United States to influence the American government? Here are paragraphs 20 through 22:

20. As part of the scheme, in February 2012, MANAFORT and GATES solicited two Washington, C., firms (Company A and Company B) to lobby in the United States on behalf of Yanukovych, the Party of Regions, and the Government of Ukraine. For instance, GATES wrote to Company A that it would be “representing the Government of Ukraine in [Washington,] DC.”

21. MANAFORT repeatedly communicated in person and in writing with Yanukovych, and GATES passed on directions to Company A and Company B. For instance, MANAFORT wrote Yanukovych a memorandum dated April 8, 2012, in which he provided Yanukovych an update on the lobbying firms’ activities “since the inception of the project a few weeks ago. It is my intention to provide you with a weekly update moving forward.” Toward the end of that first year, in November 2012, GATES wrote to Company A and Company B that the firms needed to prepare an assessment of their past and prospective lobbying efforts so the “President” could be briefed by “Paul” “on what Ukraine has done well and what it can do better as we move into 2013.”

22. At the direction of MANAFORT and GATES, Company A and Company B engaged in extensive lobbying. Among other things, they lobbied multiple Members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions, the validity of Ukraine elections, and the propriety of Yanukovych’s imprisoning his presidential rival, Yulia Tymoshenko (who had served as Ukraine President prior to Yanukovych). MANAFORT and GATES also lobbied in connection with the roll out of a report concerning the Tymoshenko trial commissioned by the Government of Ukraine. MANAFORT and GATES used one of their offshore accounts to funnel $4 million to pay secretly for the report.

The indictment hit my inbox at 9:01 a.m. Eastern time. At 1:02 p.m. Politico reported this

Democratic power lobbyist Tony Podesta, founder of the Podesta Group, is stepping down from the firm that bears his name after coming under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller . . . Podesta’s decision to leave the firm came on the same day that former Donald Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted on multiple charges, including money laundering, operating as federal agents of the Ukrainian government, failing to disclose overseas bank accounts and making false statements to federal authorities. Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials, according to court records.

The investigation into Podesta and his firm grew out of investigators’ examination of Manafort’s finances. Manafort organized a PR campaign on behalf of a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Podesta Group was one of several firms that were paid to do work on the PR campaign to promote Ukraine in the U.S.

If the indictment’s allegations are true, it’s an important reminder that during much of his work on behalf of the Russian-backed Ukrainian government Paul Manafort was hoping to influence Democratic leaders. Barack Obama was president, not Donald Trump. Thus it made sense that he’d work with a powerhouse Democratic lobbying firm. Let’s not forget that Tony Podesta’s brother John served as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. 

Given that Russia and Russia’s allies had been trying to influence American politics well before Donald Trump decided to run for president, a comprehensive investigation was always going to have bipartisan implications. When Trump hired Manafort, he brought on the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but we can never forget that Clintonworld is the Okefenokee of American political machines. It would be ironic indeed if Robert Mueller helped drain their swamp. 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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