When the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were unsealed, people started asking questions about the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC. The Podesta Group is owned by Tony and John Podesta. Mercury LLC is run by former Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber. This AP article raises a number of questions about these men’s lobbying activities, saying “At the center of the widening probe are Tony Podesta, a longtime Democratic operative, and Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman and leader of his own high-powered lobbying firm, Mercury LLC. The two men were hired as part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort directed by Manafort and longtime associate Rick Gates.”
Later in the article, it continues, saying “Representatives for Weber’s firm and Podesta said they are cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation. Podesta, whose brother was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has resigned from his firm.” This can’t be good news for Weber or Tony Podesta, especially if the AP article is right in saying “With the emphasis on the Ukrainian lobbying efforts, Mueller’s criminal probe is moving beyond investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and is aggressively pursuing people who worked as foreign agents without registering with the Justice Department. More witnesses are expected before the grand jury in coming weeks.”
This article indicates that K Street isn’t taking a business-as-usual attitude these days:
Washington lobbyists who represent foreign powers have taken comfort for decades in the fact that the Justice Department rarely goes after them for potentially breaking the law. That all changed on Monday. The news of Tony Podesta’s resignation from his namesake firm and indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates sent K Street scrambling, as lobbyists rushed to make sure they’re in compliance with the rules. The developments also renewed calls for Congress to pass legislation beefing up the Justice Department’s enforcement of the law, which lawmakers in both parties have derided for lacking teeth.
If Director Mueller’s focus has shifted to “pursuing people who worked as foreign agents without registering with the Justice Department”, then Weber’s firm might be in trouble. I can’t picture Mueller opening an investigation into Weber’s firm if he hadn’t gotten a tip that something was, at minimum, suspicious. This video suggests that something else has caught Mueller’s attention:
According to Manafort’s indictment, he and Gates “engaged in weekly and at times daily calls and emails with (company 1 and company 2) to provide them directions as to specific lobbying steps that should be taken and to receive reports back as to the results of such lobbying.” The two firms were the Podesta Group and Mercury.
Being connected with guys who’ve been indicted doesn’t mean you’re automatically guilty. It doesn’t mean you’re squeaky clean, either.