Special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian election interference has now led investigators to to turn their sights on D.C. lobbying powerhouse Tony Podesta for his firm's effort to burnish Ukraine's image through a PR campaign. Through that organization, Manafort hired the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC to do public relations and lobbying work aimed at shielding Yanukovych from worldwide condemnation for actions such as jailing political rivals.
The Podesta Group was co-founded by Tony and his brother, John Podesta, a longtime Clinton aide who served as chairman of her 2016 presidential campaign.
The Podesta Group has been ensnared into the larger investigation into Russian Federation collusion that Mueller's team is investigating, NBC reports. Manafort's firm did the same.
Manafort left the Trump campaign in August 2016 after the Associated Press revealed his work for the Party of Regions, which reportedly included seeking favorable press coverage in prominent US media outlets.
Manafort, whose home FBI agents raided in July, has reportedly emerged as the central subject in the investigation, which is now focused on his finances, work for foreign governments and possible tax compliance issues.
Manafort reportedly worked along side the Podesta Group for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), a nonprofit dedicated to increasing pro-Ukrainian sentiment in the west. Investigators are now examining whether the lobbying firm violated FARA by failing to disclose their work for a foreign government. Both Podesta and Mercury also filed retroactively.
"The Podesta Group fully disclosed its representation of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU), and complied with FARA by filing under the lobbying disclosure act over five years ago and within weeks of starting our work", the group's spokesperson said. The Podesta Group and Mercury did not respond to inquiries on Monday. Skadden was paid to produce a report that defended as legitimate the arrest of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister-though the prosecution was widely condemned as politically motivated.
The investigation stems from undisclosed payments made to a pro-Ukraine nonprofit. Skadden has not registered under FARA, contending that none of its attorneys did work that required registering.