Top Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta told staff he was leaving the eponymous firm he founded with his powerful brother – on a day two Trump campaign operatives were indicted and a third pled guilty to lying.
Podesta founded the Podesta Group in 1988 along with his brother John, who went on to become Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s chief of staff, as well as Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair.
The hacking of his personal emails is one of the key factors in the investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections, which makes his brother Tony’s role all the more striking.
Tony Podesta told staff he is stepping down from his firm, after an investigation of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s finances revealed lobbying work that the firm got paid to do in order to burnish Ukraine’s image in the west.
Top Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta told staff he was leaving the eponymous firm he founded with his powerful brother, on a day two top Trump campaign officials were indicted. Here, Heather and Tony Podesta attended the intimate “Summer Chic” barbeque at Esther Coopersmith’s DC home to celebrate the recent marriage of lawyer Jack Einwechter to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez
THIS COULD GET UGLY: Tony Podesta’s firm was part of a PR effort overseen by former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. The power lobbyist announced he was giving up control of his firm on the day two top Trump campaign officials were indicted
Manafort represented a Ukrainian political party and is charged with orchestrating a vast money laundering scheme to hide foreign payments he stashed overseas.
Tony Podesta is relinquishing ‘full operational and financial control’ of the firm, Politico reported Monday.
“[Tony] was very magnanimous and said, “This is an amazing group of people,” a source told the publication, adding that he concluded he “needs to fight this as an individual, but doesn’t want the firm to fight it.”
Podesta is a top Democratic lobbyist and brother of John Podesta, who helped run Hillary Clinton’s campaign
GOP nominee Donald Trump, flanked from left by campaign manager Paul Manafort, and daughter Ivanka Trump, checks the podium early Thursday afternoon in preparation for accepting the GOP nomination to be President at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday July 21, 2016. Manafort got indicted Monday
POWER COUPLE: Tony Podesta, Heather Podesta and Henry Buhl attend The Guggenheim International Gala at Seagram Plaza on November 7, 2005 in New York City. Husband and wife ran separate lobby shops, but Tony Podesta’s work with Paul Manafort has come under scrutiny by federal investigators
It was not known at press time whether Podesta would also give up his stake in the firm. The firm was expected to announce a new name and organizational plan was within days.
Manafort did work for a pro-Moscow Ukrainian political party and showed up in a ledger of off-the-books payments that drew scrutiny during the campaign.
He also oversaw the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), an effort to boost the country’s image in the west through funding a nonprofit.
NBC reported last week that Mueller was investigating the firm’s dealings. The Podesta group has a stable of well-connected lobbyists and consultants as partners.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s staff is also investigating Washington lobbyist Tony Podesta and his firm in connection with work they did on behalf of a nonprofit connected to a Ukrainian political party. He told staff Monday he was leaving his firm
Wire transfers: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (center) turned himself in at FBI headquarters on Monday, under fire for possible money laundering and tax fraud related to his work for Ukraine’s former president
Then-candidate Donald Trump first Manafort after reports that he pocketed at least $12 million in undisclosed payments from Viktor Yanukovych (pictured), the pro-Russia former Ukrainian president.
According to the indictment, Gates wrote Company A that it would be ‘representing the Government of Ukraine in [Washington] D.C’ Manafort repeatedly communicated with Victor Yanukovych, who led the Party of Regions and served as president of Ukraine before being ousted.
Such lobbying requires disclosure with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Both Manafort’s firm and the Podesta Group only filed amended forms acknowledging the work after it got reported in the media.
Headed to a judge: Paul Manafort was driven by his lawyer on Monday morning to turn himself in to Mueller
The firms got paid not by their ‘nominal client, the Centre,’ but through off-shore accounts associated with Manafort and Gates headquartered in Cyprus and the Grenadines.
They got more than $2 million in payments between 2012 and 2014.
The firm did not respond to requests for comment.
The work outlined in the indictment was extensive. The firms ‘engaged in weekly scheduled calls and frequent emails’ with Manafort and Gates.
They provided detailed reports on their work, and communicated with Yanukovych, as well as ‘with United States officials in connection with this work.’
Some of the evidence came from a July early morning raid of Manafort’s home.
Seizures from the home and email accounts ‘revealed numerous documents, including documents related to lobbying, which were more than thirty-days old at the time of the November 2016 letter to the Department of Justice’ – meaning they should have been disclosed.
According to a statement the group provided to DailyMail.com last week, “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. Any insinuation to the contrary is false.’
A spokesperson added: ‘The Podesta Group has fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s office and taken every possible step to provide documentation that confirms compliance with the law. Based on our due diligence and on the recommendation of definitive legal experts, the firm immediately filed the appropriate public disclosures of its representation of the ECFMU over five years ago, and in eight subsequent public filings.’
In his heyday, Podesta was one of D.C.’s power lobbyists, with an unusual professional partnership with his wife, Heather Podesta, who was also a fixture on the city’s party circuit.
But by 2014 the two were engaged in an angry divorce with a dispute over art assets as well as the separate lobbying shops that each headed. The couple squabbled over high-priced D.C. real estate, famous paintings and lithographs, and the value and cache provided by the Podesta name, Washingtonian reported at the time.
In a sign of how plugged-in Podesta remains, he was spotted at a surprise 70th birthday party for Hillary Clinton over the weekend. Also present were former Clinton advisors John Podesta, Huma Abedin, and Sidney Blumenthal, Politico reported.