The Podesta Group, founded by Democratic operative Tony Podesta and his brother, former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, appears to be one of the companies named in the indictment of Paul Manafort released Monday by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The release was followed later Monday by Tony Podesta’s announcement of his resignation from the Podesta Group. Podesta was a top campaign contributor and bundler for Hillary Clinton.
The indictment, the Daily Caller was first to report, states Manafort and associate Paul Gates – both of whom were charged with tax evasion and other crimes – chose two companies, dubbed Company A and Company B, to engage in “a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign in the United States at the direction of [former Ukrainian President Victor] Yanukovych, the Party of Regions, and the government of Ukraine” from 2006 to 2014. NBC News previously reported, citing sources close to the investigation, that Mueller’s probe had expanded to the Podesta Group. The other lobby group in the indictment is reported to be Mercury LLC.
The Party of Regions is a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party whose leader, Yanukovych, served as president from 2010 to 2014.
Manafort, who joined Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016 and served as campaign manager from June to August 2016, and Gates pleaded not guilty to charges of “conspiracy against the United States,” conspiring to launder money, failing to report financial interests in a foreign country, lying in documents disclosing his role as an agent of a foreign country and lying in statements to the Justice Department.
Meanwhile, a former campaign adviser to President Trump, George Papadopoulos, entered a guilty plea in the investigation, admitting he lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
Papadopoulos, whose Oct. 5 guilty plea was unsealed Monday, admitted lying to FBI agents about the nature of his interactions with “foreign nationals” offering “dirt” on Clinton who allegedly were attempting to line up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Responding to reporters at the White House press briefing Monday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said Papadopoulos didn’t have an influential role in the campaign, describing him as a volunteer on an advisory council that met one time during the year.
“Any actions he took would have been on his own,” Sanders said.
The Podesta Group also has a tie to the Uranium One scandal – the deal approved by Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration that coincided with millions in donations from uranium interests flowing to the Clinton Foundation – which returned to news headlines last week.
The Hill reported that before a government panel in which Hillary Clinton was a member approved the sale, the FBI was sitting on evidence Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to expand Moscow’s nuclear business in the U.S. Uranium One controls 20 percent of U.S. uranium reserves. The Podesta Group received $180,000 from Uranium One to lobby Hillary Clinton’s State Department, according to Open Secrets. Meanwhile, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported the secretive, Kremlin-linked, green-energy company for which John Podesta served as a board member, Joule Unlimited, apparently met its demise because of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election loss. WND reported last year that Joule received $35 million from a Putin-connected Russian government fund at the same time Hillary Clinton spearheaded the transfer of U.S. advanced technology, some with military uses, as part of her “reset” strategy with Russia.
At a meeting Monday morning, Tony Podesta turned over operational and financial control of the Podesta Group to longtime firm CEO Kimberley Fritts, according to multiple sources who spoke to Politico.
A source said Podesta told staff he “doesn’t intend to go quietly or learn how to play golf.” Podesta said he “needs to fight this as an individual, but doesn’t want the firm to fight it.”
‘Extensive lobbying’ by Podesta Group
The Manafort indictment says the two companies were aware that they were lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian government and worked with Manafort to conceal their foreign lobbying activities from the public, the Daily Caller reported.
“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 Ukrainian elections, and the propriety of Yanukovych’s imprisoning his presidential rival, Yulia Tymoshenko (who had served as Ukraine President prior to Yanukovych).”
The indictment says the two companies received payments “solely through off-shore accounts associated with the Manafort-Gates entities.”
In a tweet Monday morning, Trump emphasized the Manafort indictment had nothing to do with Russian collusion. “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” Trump tweeted. ‘But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” “Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” he said.
Last week, following the Washington Post’s report that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for the infamous anti-Trump dossier, CNN reported John Podesta and former DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., both privately denied to congressional investigators that they had any knowledge of the hiring of Fusion GPS, the opposition-research firm that deployed former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile the salacious and largely debunked dossier.
But the interviews of the two Democratic Party leaders took place prior to the Post’s bombshell report revealing the role of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
As CNN put it: “Their remarks to congressional investigators raise the stakes in their assertion that they knew nothing about the funding because it’s against the law to make false statements to Congress.”
CNN sources further disclosed that sitting next to John Podesta during the interview was his attorney, Marc Elias.
Elias was there in his capacity as Podesta’s lawyer, not as a witness. But the Post’s investigation identified Elias – the general counsel for the Clinton campaign – as the one who hired Fusion GPS to continue research on Trump on behalf of the campaign and DNC.