by Chuck Ross
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has referred cases on a group of prominent American lobbyists, including Democrat-connected superlobbyist Tony Podesta, to federal prosecutors in New York as part of an inquiry into whether the operatives worked as unregistered foreign agents.
Mueller also referred former Obama White House General Counsel Greg Craig and former Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber to the New York office as part of the inquiry, according to CNN.
All three of the lobbyists worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a campaign to help former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Mueller has indicted Manafort in two federal jurisdictions on a slew of charges related to his work for Yanukovcyh, including tax evasion and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Manafort went on trial in Virginia on Tuesday.
Manafort, a longtime Republican political consultant, worked for a political party connected to Yanukovych from 2005 to 2014, two years before he joined the Trump campaign.
Podesta’s firm, the Podesta Group, and Weber’s firm, Mercury Public Affairs, worked on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a think tank linked to Yanukovych.
Craig’s former law firm, Skadden Arps, worked with Manafort in 2012 to produce a report aimed at justifying the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, a Ukrainian politician who opposed Yanukovych, a close ally of Vladimir Putin’s.
Podesta, Weber and Craig have not been charged with any crimes or accused of any wrongdoing. It is unclear whether the Mueller referrals indicate that they are being investigated for a crime.
Another former former Skadden Arps lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, has pleaded guilty to Mueller’s prosecutors for lying to the FBI about his work with Manafort. Van der Zwaan worked closely with Craig on the Ukraine project.
According to CNN, Mueller referred information about Podesta to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) shortly before a raid against former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Mueller also referred the Cohen case to SDNY prosecutors.
Podesta, the brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, closed the Podesta Group late last year. Craig left Skadden Arps in April, shortly after van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Mercury Public Affairs has fared somewhat better. The GOP-linked firm has thrived under the Trump administration.
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